Chinese cities

Fulong Wu. 2020. Adding new narratives to urban imagination: An introduction to new directions of urban studies in China. Urban Studies 57(3) 459–472. (download pre-print pdf) (free access from the journal of Urban Studies).

Abstract. Rapid urban development in China provides rich cases for urban research. Current urban studies in China are heavily influenced by an urban imagination embedded in the West. Using the cases of land management and environmental governance, social transformation and the spatial and regional dimensions of urbanisation, this article attempts to rethink some surprising findings from empirical research in Chinese cities and to contribute to theoretical understandings of urbanisation beyond contextual particularities. Following the narrative of ‘planning centrality, market instruments’ in China, this article highlights the political logic behind managing growth and environmental governance, social differentiation produced by interwoven state and market forces and new geographies of Chinese cities beyond the economic-centred imagination.


Fulong Wu. 2020. Emerging cities and urban theories: A Chinese perspective. In: Pumain D. (ed) Theories and Models of Urbanization: Lecture Notes in Morphogenesis (pp. 171-182). Cham: Springer. (download pdf)

Fulong Wu, Zheng Wang. 2019. Moral order in the post-socialist Chinese city: generating a dialogue with Robert E. Park’s ‘The City’. In Ray Forrest, Julie Ren, Bart Wissink (eds.) The City in China: New Perspectives on Contemporary Urbanism (pp.43-62). Bristol: Bristol University Press. (download pdf)

Abstract. The seminal works by Park and the Chicago school of sociology are of great value for studying a rapidly urbanising China characterised by the decline of the formerly socialist structure and the increasing commodification of services and housing. Their assertion that the industrial organisation of cities has substituted primary and neighbourhood relations with secondary relations characterised by anonymity and utilitarianism also resonates with the rising middle-class population in China. However, our chapter contends that certain population groups have not followed the trajectory of change described by Park but instead continue to rely on primary and local social relations due to interventions of the Chinese state. Our argument is supported by a discussion on the varying social relations in Chinese urban neighbourhoods and specifically on the social life of rural migrants in the urban Chinese society.

Fulong Wu. 2016. Emerging Chinese cities: implications for global urban studies. The Professional Geographer 68(2): 338-348. (full paper in Open Access from the journal).

Abstract. Chinese cities are emerging in multiple senses: They have created new physical spaces to accommodate the fast urbanization of the country but have also developed new properties and characteristics along with urban transformation. The novelty created by emerging cities in China is not easily covered by Western urban theory. This article examines the dynamism of Chinese urban transformation, especially political economic changes vis-à-vis so-called neoliberalism, and spatial outcomes as diverse and contrasting spaces of formality and informality. Finally, this article speculates on implications for global urban studies.

摘要:中国城市在多重的意义上正在崛起: 它们创造了崭新的实质空间, 以容纳国家的高速城市化, 但却同时随着城市变迁, 发展出新的产权及特徵。中国崛起中的城市之创新性, 并无法轻易地以西方城市理论涵盖之。本文检视中国城市变迁的动态, 特别是相对于所谓的新自由主义的政治经济改变, 以及作为多样且截然不同的正式与非正式空间的空间后果。本文最终思考其对全球城市研究的意涵。

Fulong Wu, 2012. Urbanization, in Handbook of Contemporary China, edited by William S Tay and Alvin Y So, pp. 237-262. World Scientific: New Jersey. (download pdf)

Abstract. This paper examines urban development in China through the perspective of economic restructuring. First a review of the establishment of an export- oriented economy and its institutional foundation vis-à-vis fiscal and land policies. Then an examination of the basic characteristics of the world’s factory model and how it defines the process of urbanization and urban development. Comparisons of contrasting spatial forms of upper market commodity housing estates and migrants’ villages point toward a hybrid urban form that essentially reflects the contradiction of the world’s factory regime. Finally some specula- tions about the transition of the world’s factory regime and the impact of recent global economic crisis on China’s urban development.

Fulong Wu. 2011. Retreat from a totalitarian society: China’s urbanism in making. In Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson (eds.) A New Companion to the City (pp.701-712). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (download pdf). Chinese version: 吴缚龙 2013. 退离全能社会:建设中的中国城市化。张庭伟、田莉(编)《城市读本》(609-615)。北京:中国建筑工业出版社。(下载 pdf).

Fulong Wu and Duanfang Lu. 2008. The transition of Chinese cities. Built Environment 34(4): 385-391. (download pdf)

Fulong Wu (2007) (editor) China’s Emerging Cities: The Making of New Urbanism. London: Routledge. 306pp ISBN: 0-415-41617-5 (hbk), 0-203-93780-5 (ebk)

Fulong Wu, Jiang Xu and Anthony Gar-On Yeh (2007) Urban Development in Post-reform China: State, Market and Space. London: Routledge. 312pp ISBN: 0415393590 (hbk), 0203962982 (ebk)

Fulong Wu (editor) (2006) Globalization and the Chinese City. London: Routeldge. 315pp. ISBN 0–415–35199–5

Laurence Ma and Fulong Wu (editors) (2005) Restructuring the Chinese City: Changing Society, Economy and Space. London: Routeldge. 283pp. ISBN 0-415-33385-7.

Fulong Wu. 2005. The city in transition and the transition of cities in China. Urban Geography 26(2): 100-106. (download pdf)

Fulong Wu. 2003. Transitional cities. Environment and Planning A 35(8): 1331- 1338. (download pdf)

Abstract. I begin my speculation by asking whether there is a transition of urban process’ and whether this transition is qualitatively different from what we have seen in the mainstream urban transition. By the urban process’, I am referring to a fundamental political^economic process rather than simply the concrete manifestations of land development or housing provision. The question is about the fundamental conception of the city and, in this case, I aim to show that the transitional cities become the material, functional, and symbolic means of accumulation — the ‘growth machine’ as conceived by Logan and Molotch (1987).

Fulong Wu. 1997. Urban restructuring in China’s emerging market economy: towards a framework for analysis. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 21: 640-663. (download pdf)

Abstract. The objective of this article is to speculate on the urban restructuring process in China’s transition to a market economy. Previous studies suggest that a broad theoretical framework is much needed to develop hypotheses for further empirical studies. This paper draws its insights from relevant studies on contemporary capitalist cities, in particular, political economy analysis of the urban process and capital switching, the structure of building provision and the creation of a rent gap, and institutional analysis of property rights. Summarily, it suggests that the basic logic of production in the context of a socialist city requires a specific way of coordinating — through economic planning and a specific configuration — the state work‐unit system. Manifested in the production of the built environment was project‐specific development. The structural tendency to disinvest in developed land has engendered a rent gap, which has laid the foundation for the phase of redevelopment in reforming socialist economies. Urban restructuring in the recent emerging market economy, which mainly involves decentralization, reorganizing the production of the built environment, and an increasing local‐global link through overseas capital, is understood through this perspective. The post‐reform built environment is characterized by land‐use restructuring and polycentric development. It is argued that the physical reshaping of Chinese cities can be understood with respect to the redefinition of property rights, hence, capturing the rent gap by the main actors — state work‐units, municipalities, the central state, real‐estate investors, original residents and farmers. By its nature, the process favours big builders who have either de facto rights over existing urban land property or huge capital that enables them to ‘wipe out’ small owners. Western experience of gentrification reminds us that social problems may be created during the process, which calls for continuing insights to shed light on urban restructuring in post‐reform China.

Fulong Wu. 1995. The changing urban process in the face of China’s transition to a socialist market economy. Environment and Planning C 13: 159-177. (download pdf)

Abstract. In this paper the urban process in the face of China’s transition to a market economy is examined from the perspective of political economy. Before economic reform, China operated a centrally planned economy. Production activities were organized on the basis of sectoral departments of the central government, and the reproduction of labour was carried out through self-contained development. The dominance of the state stemmed from its role in resource allocation. Economic reform, launched in 1978, introduced market mechanisms to urban processes in China. Through fiscal, housing, and land reforms decisionmaking was decentralized. Under so-called ‘comprehensive development’, municipalities are now required to organize urban development. The state has lost its dominant status in budgetary investment. Self-raised, extrabudgetary funds increased rapidly. Work units still extract surplus value efficiently but have had to become the major purchasers in housing markets because workers in the public sector cannot afford housing. The persistence of state ownership in the mode of production makes it unlikely that market forces will play a leading role in urban development in China.