Institutional dynamics and practices in China's urban transition: a case study of Guangzhou's urban regeneration

  • Weixuan Chen

Student thesis: PhD Thesis


China's urban transition encompasses a multitude of challenges and prospects pivotal for sustainable development. Much of the prevailing literature has been dedicated to urban transition paradigms in developed nations, creating a knowledge gap in understanding the institutional dynamics and urban regeneration practices in developing nations, especially China. Addressing this void, this thesis introduces an analytical framework designed to elucidate institutional complexities, offer policy implications, and identify strategic avenues for fostering sustainable urban transition in China.

An exhaustive exploration of urban regeneration practices in Guangzhou yields context-specific insights, enriching the theoretical landscape of urban transition dynamics. The study amalgamates both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including policy document analysis, stakeholder interviews, and resident questionnaires. This multi-dimensional data triangulation reinforces the validity of the findings, revealing patterns and interrelations across diverse analytical spectra.

Three fundamental elements underpin the research: institutional objectives, the institutionalisation trajectory, and influential determinants. The research commences by unveiling institutional objectives that guide China's urban metamorphosis, discerning both overt and covert dimensions underpinning urban progression. An evident gravitation towards structured, market-centric strategies is observed, indicative of the shift in policy frameworks from "1+N" to the present "1+1+N". An urban regeneration framework for Guangzhou underscores the prominence of Land Use and Property Rights and Industry and Finance, while facets such as History and Culture and Ecology and Landscape are comparatively underrepresented. This highlights the exigency to more holistically integrate environmental considerations within urban rejuvenation initiatives.

The research further delves into the institutionalisation arc, investigating the genesis and operationalisation of policies within the urban regeneration context. The intent is to understand how policies materialise into actions and become embedded within urban development paradigms. The institutionalisation of public participation in China's urban evolution integrates formal policy directives with on-ground execution. The perceived value of public participation by governmental entities steers the level of institutionalisation, while the interplay between policy and action determines the nature of public involvement. Active, grassroots engagement emerges as essential for cultivating comprehensive and inclusive public participation.

Subsequently, the thesis navigates the influential determinants that shape the practices within China's urban transition. Through an analysis of stakeholder dynamics, power structures, resident engagement, and socio-economic factors, key determinants influencing urban regeneration practices are identified. Tangible involvement of residents in such projects is observed to be restricted, attributed to factors like limited resident capabilities and enthusiasm, vestiges of planned economic thought, traditional paradigms, and a top-driven governance ethos. While variables like age and income are influential in resident participation, factors such as marital status, gender, and education level exhibit limited impact. For a progressive urban transition in China, it is crucial to intensify residents' active participation and overcome socio-economic challenges.

This inquiry contributes significantly to urban studies, addressing the previously uncharted terrain of institutional dynamics and urban regeneration practices in developing settings, specifically within the unique milieu of China's urban transition. By unveiling the nuanced interplay of institutional mechanisms and their impact on urban growth, this study furnishes crucial insights for policymakers, urban stakeholders, and scholars traversing similar urban transition landscapes. The derived policy insights and recommendations aspire to shape strategic decision-making, fostering a holistic approach to urban transition in China and enriching the broader discourse on sustainable urbanisation.
Date of AwardNov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
SupervisorEugenio Mangi (Supervisor), Timothy Heath (Supervisor) & Ali Cheshmehzangi (Supervisor)


  • Urban Transition
  • Guangzhou
  • China
  • sustainable development

Cite this