Urbanisation processes and new towns in contemporary China

A critical understanding from a decentred view

The article discusses the results of research on Chinese new towns focusing on three places: Tongzhou New Town, located in the eastern suburban expansion of Beijing; Zhaoqing New Area, currently being built approximately 20 km from the old city of Zhaoqing (Guandong Province); and Zhengdong New District, located near Zhengzhou (inland Henan Province). Tongzhou, Zhaoqing and Zhengdong have absolutely nothing in common: location, size, spaces, economies, inhabitants, or when and how they were built. However, studying these places allowed us to identify two issues that still seem to be in need of investigation both empirically and theoretically: the spatial features and regional scaling-up of the Chinese urbanisation processes. While presenting these issues, on the one hand, the article emphasises their specificity in the investigated contexts and, on the other, it transcends these specific cases in order to question urban studies beyond the (alleged) exceptionality of Chinese urbanisation. By adopting this approach, Chinese new towns become an object of study as well as a specific viewpoint from which to examine contemporary urbanisation and radically re-discuss old categories, conceptualisations and even the epistemology of the urban.




Francesca Governa, Angelo Sampieri

Published on

Urban Studies


Vol. 57, Issue 2, 2020