Rethinking China’s urban governance
This project aims to rethink China’s model of urban governance beyond the characterisation of neoliberal urbanism or state authoritarianism and to provide a nuanced understanding of the role of the state in the dynamic relation of state–market–society in its governance through neighbourhood, urban and regional levels and multi-site examinations, and to assess the implications for urban theory and policies.

Forthcoming event– People-Centered Micro-Redevelopment in Urban China
Source: Prof. Li

We would like to invite you to join us for the online seminar on Friday 2nd of December, 12:30-13:30 (UK time). Professor Zhigang Li will give a talk about “People-Centered Micro-Redevelopment in Urban China”. The Zoom meeting ID is 997 8100 7353. Alternatively, please join via Look forward to your participation!

Abstract: This study sheds lights on two new cases of the micro-redevelopment of Chinese cities: Jinsong Model and gongtongdizao (co-produce), to interrogate the changing dynamics of urban (re)development in China in the earlier 21st century. With a political-economic analysis based on fieldworks, surveys, and semi-structured interviews within several typical neighborhoods in Beijing, Wuhan, etc., in the last two years, it is found that a new modality of urban redevelopment is in the making, differing from the old mode of mass destruction, reconstruction, and resident relocation. Instead, the new mode features micro, incremental, and in situ redevelopments. It yields profits at a slower speed on a smaller scale. In particular, the new mode is more state-oriented, through which the state intentionally mobilizes both societal forces and market forces to achieve its goal of ‘people-centered’ development. Thereby, people-centered micro-redevelopment is de facto state-oriented neighborhood governance.

Zhigang Li is the dean and a professor of urban studies and planning, School of Urban Design, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China. His recent work concentrates on the redevelopment of neighborhoods in China. Being an editorial board member of NJURR, Urban Studies, and Transactions in Planning and Urban Research, Prof Li has published widely (about 200 pieces) in both English and Chinese academic journals on such issues as social space, migration, neighborhood, heath, governance, et al., in order to develop nuanced understandings of China’s emerging urbanism and modernity.

Online event 23/11/22– Politics of Science and Nature in Urbanizing China
Source: Jesse Rodenbiker

On 23rd November 2022, the ChinaUrban project hosted an online seminar to discuss environmental governance in China. Dr Jesse Rodenbiker was invited to present his research entitled “Politics of Science and Nature in Urbanizing China”. The event attracted 40 participants.

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Previous events

The Bartlett Planning Podcast: Rethinking China’s Urban Governance

In March 2022, Professor Yvonne speaks with Professor Fulong Wu about his research on urban development in China and, in particular, his new paper with Fangzhu Zhang ‘Rethinking China’s urban governance: The role of the state in neighbourhoods, cities and regions’. Listen to the podcast via

In November 2022, Yvonne speaks with Dr. Weikai Wang. Weikai explains his research into how China can tackle the urgent environmental, social and political problem of air pollution. Listen to the podcast via

RSA winter conference 10/11/2022-11/11/2022
Group photo

The ChinaUrban group members attended the RSA winter conference (10/11/2022-11/11/2022) in London. Two special sessions about “metropolitan governance in a post-pandemic era” were organised; six group members gave presentations at the conference.

Speakers: Dr. Fangzhu Zhang, Dr. Weikai Wang, Dr. Ying Wang, Zhenfa Li, Yi Feng, Kan Zhu

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New book– Creating Chinese Urbanism

Creating Chinese Urbanism: Urban revolution and governance changes by Fulong Wu

Creating Chinese Urbanism describes the landscape of urbanisation in China, revealing the profound impacts of marketisation on Chinese society and the consequential governance changes at the grassroots level.

Besides witnessing the breaking down of socially integrated neighbourhoods, Fulong Wu explains the urban roots of a rising state in China. Instead of governing through autonomous stakeholders, state-sponsored strategic intentions remain. In the urban realm, the desire for greater residential privacy does not foster collectivism. State-led rebuilding of residential communities has sped up the demise of traditionalism and given birth to a new China with greater urbanism and state-centred governance.

Taking the vantage point of concrete residential neighbourhoods, Creating Chinese Urbanism offers a cutting-edge analysis of how China is becoming urban and grounds the changing state governance in the process of urbanization. Its original and material interpretation of the changing role of the state in China makes it suitable reading for researchers and students in the fields of urban studies, geography, planning and the built environment.

Research publications

Fulong Wu and Fangzhu Zhang (2021) Rethinking China’s urban governance: The role of the state in neighbourhoods, cities and regions. Progress in Human Geography

Abstract: Following the notion of the entrepreneurial city, this paper examines recent scholarship about China’s urban governance. Despite prevailing marketisation, the role of the state is visible in neighbourhood, cities and city-regions. The state necessarily deals with a fast changing society and deploys market-like instruments to achieve its development objectives. Through multi-scalar governance, the state involves social and market actors but at the same time maintains strategic intervention capacity. China’s contextualised scholarship provides a more nuanced understanding beyond the entrepreneurial city thesis, which is more state-centred.


A reading report in Chinese

Research publications

Yi Feng, Fulong Wu and Fangzhu Zhang (2022) Shanghai municipal investment corporation: Extending government power through financialization under state entrepreneurialism. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space

Abstract: Financialized urban governance means that local governments have been increasingly reliant on financial techniques and in some extreme cases, been captured by shareholders’ interests. However, financialized governance mutates with various characteristics of local governance. This paper unpacks financialized urban governance in China based on the operation of Shanghai Municipal Investment Corporation (SMI). The Shanghai municipal government uses SMI as an intermediary to finance urban development. Based on the latest corporatization of SMI, we illustrate an embryonic form of financialized governance in which the Shanghai municipal government relies on financial means especially shareholding to manage and support SMI. In doing so, the municipal government internalizes financial techniques to manage state assets, seek funding, and guide urban development projects. The power of the state is not undermined during the process of financialization. Instead, the Shanghai government extends its power to the financial market to achieve its goals.

Call for papers – Special issue in Transactions in Planning and Urban Research
Metropolitan development and city-regional governance in China

Guest editors: Fulong Wu, Fangzhu Zhang, Weikai Wang

Recently, China has seen a new wave of mega-city region development (Yeh et al, 2021). The development of major mega-city regions such as the Greater Bay Area of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau will reconfigure China’s political economic landscape. The role of the state in regional governance is a salient feature (Wu and Zhang, 2022). The Chinese city-regionalism represents the state’s effort to remedy the crisis of urban entrepreneurialism at the regional scale and advance national development strategies. Facing uncertainties in globalization, changing geopolitics, and new smart technologies in the post-pandemic era, what is the current trend of city-regional governance? This special issue calls for an investigation of diverse development practices at the metropolitan and mega-city region scales and various governance aspects. We particularly welcome ‘grounded’ interpretation of Chinese urban development and regional governance (Zhang et al, 2022). 

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This research project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 832845, 2020-2024). It is based in China Planning Research Group at the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. 

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