We are organising a series of events including workshops, seminars and conferences to gather thoughts, inspire research and disseminate outputs.
Online seminar 02/11/2022  Building Chinese city-regions under state entrepreneurialism

On 2nd November 2022, the ChinaUrban project hosted an online seminar to discuss city-regions in China. Dr Yi Li was invited to present her work based on the regional development of the Yangtze River Delta (YRD). The event attracted 41 participants.

Dr Yi Li’s talk
Dr Yi Li’s talk

Dr Yi started her presentation with the literature on regional governance. There are two diverse motivations to promote regional collaboration: top-down need of delivering national concerns and bottom-up need of managing regional infrastructures. But in China’s context, it remains unknown how to comprehend city-regions. 

She introduced a framework based on ‘state entrepreneurialism’ to study city-regionalism in China. This framework contains two elements: planning centrality (multi-scalar and assemblage thinking about the role of the state) and entrepreneurial behaviour (entrepreneurial approaches of governance). Applying this framework to empirical study, she pointed out two fields: centrally orchestrated regional imaginaries and local contradictions through regional cooperation. Based on the development of the YRD city-region, Dr Yi illustrated these two elements of regional governance. 

First, from three main YRD regional plans (2010, 2016 & 2019), She illustrated the changing mandates of the central government in directing regional development. For example, in the latest YRD development plan, the central government focused on the ‘dual circulation’ of economy in the context of Sino-US trade war. Apart from central-endorsed narratives, Dr Yi also interrogated three different practices at local level to illuminate local contradictions. These practices include collaborative technological parks, connecting regional infrastructure and collaboration demonstration zone. Based on local practices, Dr Yi explained local concerns in different projects, which might not be consistent with central mandates. Local governments were still keen on their own cost-benefit calculation.  

Dr Yi concluded with insights about understanding city-regionalism in China. She argued that it is not a purely top-down or bottom-up process in China. Instead, city-region is a complexity of multi-scalar state processes with conflicting interests in cost-benefits in different cases. This event ended up with a discussion on governance characteristics in China.