We are organising a series of events including workshops, seminars and conferences to gather thoughts, inspire research and disseminate outputs.
2022 RSA Winter Conference, London, 10/11/2022-11/11/2022 

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.

Group photo
Zhenfa Li’s talk
Yi Feng’s talk
Kan Zhu’s talk
Weikai Wang’s talk
Fangzhu Zhang’s talk
Ying Wang’s talk

In the morning of 11th November, we organised the first session entitled “Metroplitan Governance in a Post-pandemic Era: Rethinking Governance”.

Zhenfa Li first presented his work about “Financialisation and Economic Development in China: Chengtou Bonds and Local Government Bonds as Financialised Tools for Growth”. It aims to show how the state uses financialised tools to pursue development goals from the perspectives of political economy and economic geography. Based on a city-level bond issuance from 2009 to 2020 in China, this research aims to verify whether issuing Chengtou bonds and LGBs contributed to economic growth measured by GDP. It finds that the growth-promoting effects of Chengtou bonds and LGBs varied across economic regions and administrative levels.

Yi Feng presented her work about “Changing Governance of Land Financing, the Reconfiguration of Land Reserve System in China”. This paper investigates the reconfiguration of land reserve system and implications for urban governance based on practices in Shanghai. Through the repositioning of Shanghai Land Reserve Center, project management and funding management and the profitability of land reserve projects, this research demonstrates how local entrepreneurial tactics are affected due to the changing institution. Using China’s case, it illustrates how urban governance evolves with tensions under changing conjuncture.  

Kan Zhu gave a talk about “State Strategic Innovation Spaces: The Development of the Zhangjiang Science City in Shanghai”. This paper examines the development of Zhangjiang Science City to unpack the dynamics underpinning the rise of innovation space. It finds that Zhangjiang Science City represents China’s latest state innovation strategy to build Shanghai into a National Comprehensive Innovation Centre. Second, the Zhangjiang Science City is developed as a mega urban project that is different from the previous mono-functional science park. Third, the role of the state is visible, and state actors are involved in the implementation of this innovation space. This study reveals that the science city is a state strategic innovation space besides a local high-tech cluster.

In the afternoon of 11th November, we organised the second session entitled “Metropolitan Governance in a Post-pandemic Era: Rethinking Sustainability”.

Dr Weikai Wang first presented his work about “Environmental City-regionalism in China: War against Air Pollution in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Surrounding Areas”. This paper investigates the air pollution management in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and surrounding areas by tracing the restructuring of the environmental state and its implications for the practices of environmental and territorial governance in China over the past decades. It identifies three phases of pollution governance in China. This research finds that the central state plays proactive but different roles in each phase, characterised by state strategic selectivity, adjustments of state apparatus, deployment of a set of policy instruments, and enhanced state capacities for monitoring, control, and legitimation. This state-led scalar fix process to cope with urgent environmental issues also explains the underlying state rationality of building up the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region as a new national strategic project.

Dr Fangzhu Zhang presented her work entitled “The Socio-ecological Fix by multi-scalar States: The Development of ‘Greenways of Paradise’ in Chengdu”. Using the perspective of the socio-ecological fix, this research demonstrates that multi-scalar states strive to upgrade environmental quality. The state-centred analysis reveals that such an environmental strategy, the making of Chinese green urbanism, is promoted like a political mission, despite its operation by the development corporation. This research argues that, while the socio-ecological fix facilitates capital accumulation, its deployment must be understood through state politics and actors.

Dr Ying Wang gave a presentation about “‘Let’s build the garden together’: Participatory regeneration and governmentality in the New Qinghe Experiment, Beijing”. It aims to understand whether contemporary participatory attempts indicate China’s transition towards inclusive governance and communicative planning. Drawing on analysis of three micro-regeneration projects in New Qinghe Experiment, this research finds local state’s attempts to transfer part of decision-making power and governmental responsibility to the community, which challenges conventional discourse on participatory regeneration in China as merely ‘symbolic’ and ‘tokenistic’. However, the emphasis on participation, self-responsibility and community self-governance should not be simply understood as advocacies of individuality or civil society but rather the promotion of a specific way of life – a life that aligns with state intentions of building a community that co-produces (gongjian) and co-governs (gongzhi) the society together with the state.