Project Title: Assessing project-led development in China’s new towns
Since the introduction of a nationwide market-based urban land system in 1988, municipal governments in China have shifted their focus from management of the planned economy to spatial planning for the purpose of enhancing economic growth. The production of space has become a key driver of local economies and has profoundly reshaped the operations of city governments, as land now serves as a vital source of revenue and a focal point for intra-state conflict as well as social contention. Municipalities’ emphasis on land development has fostered massive-scale spatial change through project-led urban growth. A proliferating form of project-led growth in the 2000s has been the new town, which I understand as multi-functional urban megaprojects. This research project aims to assess the politics of new-town development in China’s cities through analysis of planning, design, and the political economy of land development. Special focus will be placed on the isomorphic and temporal qualities of project-led growth with the aim of understanding the processes and implications of cities’ turn to urban megaprojects as a desired path to economic growth and prosperity.
In 2016, I was awarded an Early Career Grant to advance a project titled “Assessing Project-led Development in China’s New Towns.” The grant helped to fund research stints in China during the summers of 2017 and 2018, during which I spent time in Beijing, Tianjin, and Xiamen. Grant-funded research activities included interviews with urban planning experts, local government officials, and residents of the new towns I was investigating, as well as field visits to new towns on the peripheries of the cities just mentioned.
The grant has had a notable and likely durable impact on my research program. As of today, numerous publications have resulted from the work, including a peer-reviewed paper.
Overall, the grant provided an invaluable opportunity to advance my research at a pivotal, early stage in my scholarly career. It allowed me to push my research into a new and urgent topic area and join ongoing debates while able to share critical new insights generated from the research activities. I fully anticipate the greatly expanded and enriched network of research contacts and collaborators, especially in China, that emerged from the research to propel the next stages of my investigations into urban China.