1. Fulong Wu, Fangzhu Zhang, Yuqi Liu. 2021. Beyond Growth Machine Politics: Understanding State Politics and National Political Mandates in China’s Urban Redevelopment. Antipode (full-text)

Large-scale demolition has been ubiquitous in fast urbanising China. The politics of redevelopment is often seen as secondary, derived from and defined by local entrepreneurial governance. However, changing state politics, in particular national political mandates, has not been adequately addressed. Through examining variegated practices, this paper understands how the changing national political context affects or redefines local redevelopment projects. These cases reflect local responses to the national campaigns for rural vitalisation and “Beautiful China”, heritage preservation and “incremental regeneration” (weigaizao), and community participation in dilapidated neighbourhoods for a “harmonious society”. We find that these redevelopment projects are inherited from and associated with, but at the same time go beyond, growth machine politics. We argue that their motivations reflect a governance mode of “state entrepreneurialism” to achieve extra-economic objectives through market instruments, and that this illustrates geopolitics, especially the role of the national state in development politics.

2. Fulong Wu. 2021. The long shadow of the state: financializing the Chinese city. Urban Geography (full-text)

Abstract: Despite controversy over the meaning of financialization, there are two major dimensions to understanding whether the city is financialized. This paper explores these dimensions in China, namely whether the Chinese city (increasingly) uses financial instruments to carry out its urban development tasks and whether the utilization of financial instruments imposes a financial logic on urban governance. Financing the Chinese city involves creating land collateral and financial vehicles, extending shadow banking, formalizing and securitizing local government debts, and “deleveraging” developers’ debts through urban redevelopment. Applying land instruments leads to financial securitization, showing a financial logic in operation. However, financializing the Chinese city is engineered by the state through its credit expansion to cope with the Global Financial Crisis and the ramifications of the entrepreneurial model of the “export-oriented world factory.” It is a state-led financial turn, in which the financial logic is imperative but may not occupy a central position.

3. Manqi Wang, Fangzhu Zhang, Fulong Wu. 2021. Governing urban redevelopment: A case study of Yongqingfang in Guangzhou, China. Cities (full-text)

Abstract: Chinese cities have experienced large-scale urban demolition and renewal. An extensive body of literature describes urban demolition and displacement through the dynamics of property-led redevelopment and gentrification. Rising social contestation is recently noted in the literature. However, a pilot project in Guangzhou introduced an approach of ‘micro-rehabilitation’ or ‘small-scale renovation’ (weigaizao) in 2015. Since then, it has become an exemplar of the new urban redevelopment policy in China. In this pilot project, generating land profits is not a policy objective. Rather, employment creation and neighbourhood conservation are explicitly required. We find that although the project is operated by Vanke, the major property developer in China, the change of policy from demolition to minor refurbishment and rehabilitation reflects the role of the state. Despite preserving the traditional housing style, the neighbourhood has been transformed from residential uses to offices, shops, museums and hotels for tourists. This micro-rehabilitation, in fact, has generated significant impacts.

4. Fangzhu Zhang, Fulong Wu. 2021. Performing the ecological fix under state entrepreneurialism: A case study of Taihu New Town, China. Urban Studies (full-text)

Abstract: China’s eco-cities are often regarded as branding tactics of the entrepreneurial local state for economic growth and land revenue generation. However, it is not clear whether the ecological goal has been pursued at all. This paper fills this lacuna using a case study of Taihu New Town. Through an ecological fix perspective we suggest that ecological enhancement through the production of nature is attempted in conjunction with the production of the built environment. The ecological fix is not confined to an economic agenda. Under state entrepreneurialism, the central state maintains environmental governance in the name of ‘ecological civilisation’, while the local state performs the ecological fix. In Wuxi, the fixes include the removal of low-efficiency, polluting town and village enterprises (TVEs); creation of green space and infrastructure; the development of renewable energy; and low-carbon transition.

5. Yi Feng, Fulong Wu, Fangzhu Zhang. 2021. Changing roles of the state in the financialization of urban development through chengtou in China. Regional Studies (full-text)

Abstract: While the enabling role of the state in the financialization of urban development has been widely noted, the changing and variegated roles of different state actors have been less explored. This paper investigates this issue based on chengtou as financial agencies in China. First, we show that financialization is not merely a state-led process, but that the state also restricted financialization at different stages. Second, albeit with stringent central regulations, local states have striven to support chengtou, which demonstrates intrastate divergence. Third, we illustrate the performance of local states across regions to show that financialization further differentiates the patterns of local financing.

6. Fangzhu Zhang, Calvin King Lam Chung, Tingting Lu, Fulong Wu. 2021. The role of the local government in China’s urban sustainability transition: A case study of Wuxi’s solar development. Cities (full-text)

Abstract: Recent studies on socio-technical transition have elaborated the multi-level perspective through a power-sensitive view of agency and a symmetrical approach to niche-regime relations. This paper adopts this modified framework of the multi-level perspective to unpack the mechanisms of urban sustainability transition in China. It develops two arguments through a case study of the role of the local government in solar development in Wuxi city. First, the evolving alignments between niche, regime and landscape processes of the socio-technical systems of Chinese cities are mediated by conflicts between local governments and their upper-level counterparts as they share power over urban development. Second, instead of being identified as either regime supporters or niche advocates, Chinese local governments are best described as embodying both roles in urban sustainability transition as they struggle to balance their economic and environmental objectives. These two arguments point to a need to examine sustainability transition in Chinese cities with attention to the leadership of the local government in aligning the actions of various actors in and beyond the city who can stabilise and disrupt existing socio-technical configurations.

7. Fulong Wu. 2020. The state acts through the market: ‘State entrepreneurialism’ beyond varieties of urban entrepreneurialism. Dialogues in Human Geography (full-text)

Abstract: This commentary reflects on varieties of urban entrepreneurialism and rethinks its application to China. I argue that the state is proactively using market instruments for more strategic and developmental objectives in China. Characterized by ‘planning centrality, market instruments’, state entrepreneurialism manifests a different state–market relation: the state acts through the market rather than just being market friendly. In the post-crisis West, it is claimed that urban entrepreneurialism mutates into a financialized value extraction machine. Similarly, state entrepreneurialism reveals the usefulness but also the limits of the concept of urban entrepreneurialism. State entrepreneurialism adds a new narrative to the current description of governance changes associated with financialization and market operations.

8. Fulong Wu. 2020. Scripting Indian and Chinese urban spatial transformation: Adding new narratives to gentrification and suburbanisation research. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space (full-text)

Abstract: This paper examines the spatial transformation of Indian and Chinese cities with reference to prevailing gentrification and suburbanisation studies. Focusing on urban redevelopment and peripheral extension, the paper highlights how Indian and Chinese urban studies provide extensive analyses of demolition and displacement in urban renewal and redevelopment, peri-urbanisation, and mega urban projects in urban spatial extension. These studies, often developed by paying attention to specific Indian or Chinese urbanisation, add new narratives to gentrification and suburbanisation research and help to enhance our understanding of contemporary urban changes. Thinking about Indian and Chinese urban spatial transformation, these studies highlight that gentrification and suburbanisation are large research fields rather than defined concepts.

9. Yi Feng, Fulong Wu, Fangzhu Zhang. 2020. The development of local government financial vehicles in China: A case study of Jiaxing Chengtou. Land Use Policy (full-text)

Abstract: Financial intermediaries have been widely used in urban development. Since the global financial crisis, it has been an urgent task to understand their operation and implications for financial risks. This paper examines emerging local government financial vehicles (LGFVs) in China. We review their history, current status and underlying financial mechanisms. Confronting the global financial crisis, China has taken a stimulus plan to invest four-trillion Yuan in urban development to stimulate the economy. The plan has been largely fulfilled by the LGFVs. This paper investigates the case of Jiaxing City Construction Investment Corporation (Jiaxing Chengtou), which plays a role of LGFVs. We find that it mainly uses bank loans and bonds to finance land and infrastructure development. To borrow from the capital market, Jiaxing Chengtou collateralizes allocated state-owned land and enhances credits by build and transfer protocols with the city government. However, the enterprise did not manage to pay back its loans, which has led to further borrowing. Due to the central government’s control, Jiaxing Chengtou has been nominally detached from the municipal government since 2012, but it maintains a financial role. It has been re-packaged with other LGFVs to access foreign bond markets. The paper reveals how LGFVs act as financial conduits to connect local governments with the financial market in China.

10. Fulong Wu. 2020. Adding new narratives to the urban imagination: An introduction to ‘New directions of urban studies in China’. Urban Studies. (full-text)

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.