When East meets West: the prospects of Chinese urbanisation research

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Despite being a global urban policy laboratory with a diversity of research topics and case studies being reported, we still do not have a holistic understanding of urbanisation across different parts of China. We, therefore, pose three pertinent questions for discussion in this commentary: whether Chinese urbanisation research has reached a plateau of development and what are the prime sites of research; how has the policy and research environment in China created its own distinctive, interacting traditions of practical activity and intellectual inquiry; and what are the prospects of having more original conceptual thinking and theorisation of urbanisation processes in China? Our analysis highlights the spatially variegated landscape of publications, which closely mirrors China’s urban administrative hierarchy. We explain the paradoxical culture of urban research encountered by Chinese early career researchers through their constant struggle in the knowledge transfusion process of western theories and their use in Chinese urbanisation research. The dynamic relationship between theoretical and methodological development; the need for innovative comparative research; and better data infrastructure and data sharing practice are seen as the ways forward.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransactions in Planning and Urban Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 May 2022


  • China
  • Urbanisation
  • Planning
  • early career researchers
  • Comparative perspective

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Urban Institute


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