Category Archives: Tianjin

A tale of two eco-cities: experimentation under hierarchy in Shanghai and Tianjin

Miao, Bo and Graeme Lang. (2014) A tale of two eco-cities: experimentation under hierarchy in Shanghai and Tianjin. Urban Policy and Research. Prepublished December, 3, 2014. DOI: 10.1080/08111146.2014.967390

Two ambitious ‘new city’ projects were launched in China during the past 15 years—the ‘Dongtan eco-city’ project in Shanghai and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project in Tianjin. Both have received much international publicity and attention. However, the Dongtan project has stalled, and will evidently not be revived, while the Tianjin project continues, albeit with more moderate goals. We analyse the two cases, using the concept of ‘experimentation under hierarchy’ to show why one project is proceeding, while the other has failed. The key factors were strong international inputs of expertise and funds in the Tianjin project, along with crucial support from the central government, both of which were lacking in the Dongtan project.

近15 年来,中国搞了两个宏大的“新城”计划,一个是上海东滩生态城,一个是中国与新加坡合资的天津生态城。这两项工程都在国际上造出了许多舆论,也得到许多关 注。然而,东滩项目半途而废,显然不会再度启动,目标比较温和的天津项目倒是一直在进行。本文用“科层制度下的实验”这一概念,分析这两个案例,说明为何 一个项目得以延续,另一个却以失败告终。我们认为关键因素是天津项目有强大的国际专家团队和国际资金投入,而且,关键是得到了中央政府的支持,而这些因素 东滩项目都没有。

Read full text article (restricted access)


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

More Posts

Eco-cities and the transition to low carbon economies

Caprotti, Federico (2014). Eco-cities and the transition to low carbon economies. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan. 136 p. ISBN : 9781137298751 (Hardcover) / 9781137298751 (Ebook EPUB) / 9781137298751 (Ebook PDF).

9781137298751.inddEco-cities are increasingly being marketed as solutions to a range of pressing global concerns, such as environmental and climate change, hyper-urbanization, demographic shifts, energy security, and the Peak Oil scenario. In response to these issues, eco-cities are being conceptualized as ‘experimental cities’, new urban areas in which new technologies and ways of organizing urban and economic life can be trialled, and where transition pathways towards low-carbon economies can be tested. The author examines the two most advanced eco-city projects under construction at the time of writing – the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City in China, and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. These are the largest and most notable attempts at building new eco-cities to both face up to the ‘crises’ of the modern world and to use the city as an engine for transition to a low-carbon economy.

More information


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

More Posts

The new megacities

As reported by the SCMP, last week, China’ State Council launched a new megacity category to urban planning.

Beijng, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shenzhen and Chongqing will fall into this category. Special policies may regulate these megacities. Will this new satus limit migrants’integration into megacities?

Full article available here.



Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

More Posts

Utilities networks and urban fabric in China: the quest for an environmentalization in the framework of an accelerated development

Thesis defense of Rémi Curien1: Services essentiels en réseaux et fabrique urbaine en Chine : la   quête d’une environnementalisation dans le cadre d’un développement accéléré – Enquêtes à Shanghai, Suzhou et Tianjin (Utilities networks and urban fabric in China: the quest for an environmentalization in the framework of an accelerated development – Field surveys in Shanghai, Suzhou and Tianjin)

Members of the Jury

  • Sabine Barles, Professor of urban planning, Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne, president of the thesis committee.
  • Catherine Chevauché, Deputy Director of Research, Innovation and Sustainable Development at Safege, Suez Environnement, examiner.
  • Olivier Coutard, CNRS Research Director, LATTS, supervisor.
  • François Gipouloux, CNRS Research Director, UMR 8173 Chine, Corée, Japon (EHESS), referee.
  • Dominique Lorrain, CNRS Research Director, LATTS, examiner.
  • Franck Scherrer, Professor of geography and urban planning, Université de Montréal, referee.
  • Zou Huan, Professor of architecture and urban planning, Tsinghua University, examiner.


Environmentalising the country’s development without significantly changing the pace of economic and urban growth: such is the difficult challenge set since 2006 by the Chinese authorities to deal with the increasing pressure bearing on natural environment and major environmental damage caused by accelerated development. China is probably the only country in the world where a goal of energy and environmental sobriety in the provision of urban utilities (water, waste-water, electricity, gas, heating, waste management) is so vigorously sought in circular economy policies, more specifically in eco-industrial parks and eco-cities projects, in the context of a strong and extended economic and urban development. Based on an investigation conducted in Shanghai, Suzhou and Tianjin, three cities at the forefront of transformations in China, and combined with a study of the national framework and the overall situation in the country, the thesis aims to analyze the substance and the forms of the urban utilities’ environmentlisation implemented in China. Our research shows that the ambitious Chinese policies of urban utilities’ environmentalisation leads in the cities to a partial improvement in the environmental quality of their provision, while the horizon of sobriety and circular economy remains distant. The prevalence of the developmentalist urban fabric stands structurally in the way of the emergence of resources reuse-oriented alternative technical systems to conventional networks. The urban utilities’ environmentalisation path taken in the Chinese cities is too technocentric and too exogenous to urban planning for the environmentalisation and especially the quest for sobriety to be more substantial. Operationally, these findings encourage a greater integration of utilities’ provision issues in the planning and development of cities, both in China and beyond the Chinese context.


November, 21, 2014, at 2:30 pm


Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (Cité Descartes, 6-8 Avenue Blaise Pascal, 77455 Champs-sur-Marne, France) – Amphithéâtre Navier

If you wish to attend  this event, please contact Rémi Curien (


Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

More Posts

Beijing©, Shanghai ®

megacitiesCan Chinese cities be branded?

City authorities can no longer aim solely for improving their residents’ living standards, they also need to become attractive to visitors and investors, and so they create their own brands. This branding is necessary because of the increasing competition among cities.
Earlier this year, Per Olof Berg and Emma Björner edited a book on the branding of Chinese mega-cities. This book proposes different perspectives on this phenomenon by comparing Chinese mega-cities (that is to say Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shenzhen) and other international mega-cities. It studies several aspects of China’s mega-cities, from promotional films (chapter by Marina Svennson) to the emergence of green cities (chapter by Jorgen Delman).
For Berg and Björner, city branding is more complex than corporate branding, because, firstly, cities may have more images than companies; and secondly, unlike companies, the ownership structure is not clear. Who actually owns the city? Who decides on a city brand? This question is clearly linked to governance.
This interesting book is divided into three parts. After looking at the development of mega-cities in China, the contributors offer several case studies of city branding in China, and then analyse Chinese mega-cities’ global competitiveness.
In Chapter 16, Can-Seng Ooi notes that some Chinese cities copy other cities and construct similar brands, but the author also argues that this trend is adopted not only by Chinese cities, but most international mega-cities as well. Although they pretend to offer a unique experience to visitors and investors, most mega-cities are emulating each other. They simply do not want to risk being too different, because they want to be recognisable as world-class mega-cities, so they adopt similar policies.

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

More Posts

China’s emerging eco-cities

Zhongjie Lin (2014), Constructing Utopias: China’s Emerging Eco-cities, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina. ARCC Conference Repository, 2014 .

Each year about 16 millions of China’s rural residents – equivalent to the total population of the Netherlands – are moving into cities. This trend has continued for nearly two decades in this “largest mass migration ever seen in human history” (David Harvey). Amid such dramatic demographic shift and the resulting construction boom are ambitious plans throughout China to create new towns to house swelling population and to sustain economic growth. A series of prototype eco-new towns have been proposed in this wave of mass urbanization. They are often conceived as exemplary piece of urbanism showcasing the latest design and environmental technologies in town building, and represent a new chapter in China’s continuing effort of organized urbanization as a strategy to address complex economic and environmental issues.

This paper studies three eco-new town projects, including Dongdan Eco-city, Binhai Eco-city, and Qingdao Eco-block. They were intended as “models” to showcase the best practice in planning and development and to provide duplicable experience for other cities in the country. The paper examines these eco-new towns through the lens of urbanism and utopianism, focusing on the relationship between place making and social development. These projects were either initiated by the governments or created by private organizations or joint ventures, demonstrating different strategies of developing eco-city and representing different political and economic agendas. However, they were all encountered some dilemmas due to the current land policies and prevalent patterns of urban development in China, which indicates more fundamental issues to tackle to move toward a sustainable society. Studying China’s emerging eco-city movement from design and policy perspectives, this paper contribute to the understanding of new patterns of urban growth in our globalized era, and shed a new light on the strategies of dealing with the current environmental crises.

 Full text of the paper

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

More Posts - Website

Urban history and urban development in China

Xue, Qian. 2013, March 8. Urban history : a knowledge base for urban development. (accessed 9 July 2013).

 Starting from 2013, the Hangzhou Cultural and Historical Research Association will embark on a five year Wuhan Changjiang Bridge, 1957project investigating various aspects of the city’s history, including industrial development, urban construction, transportation development, etc. It is expected to provide knowledge and referential experience for current urban development.

Since the 1980s, China’s rapid urbanization has drawn more and more scholars toward the study of urban history; research on Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan has achieved significant results.

Chinese urban history studies grow fast

According to incomplete statistics, during the period from 1979 to 2010, publications on Chinese urban history totaled more than 2,000 volumes.
Professor Li Changli at the Institute of Modern History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,  said that in the past 20 or more years, the urban development in China has inspired many new topics and subfields among urban historian. Research in the area is blossoming. Particularly in recent years, publications of Chinese urban history have seen greater serialization, covered a broader range of issues and reached a more international audience.

Urban history is a branch of history.  It originated in the 1920s in the west and saw a revival in the 1960s; till 1980s, the subject had only gradually drawn attention from Chinese academia. He Yimin, vice president of the Chinese Urban History Association and director of the Institute of Urban Studies at Sichuan University, noted that China’s social development, urbanization, industrialization and modernization are the driving forces of Urban History Studies. Scholars often take major emerging cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan as original research subjects; today, their research is developing quickly.

Read more on Social Sciences in China Press


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

More Posts

Is China about to introduce a national carbon price?

Arup, Tom. (2013) Where there’s smoke there’s China. The Age World, 8 May (accessed 7 June 2013).

As a former top diplomat in Beijing, and after three decades of professional and personal engagement with the country, Professor Ross Garnaut is no stranger to China.

In January, the respected economist and former Labor climate policy tsar found himself in Beijing again, this time to open a workshop hosted in part by China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission.

Gathered were a group of international policy wonks, including many Australians and local government officials. They met to discuss options for what some in the public debate deny is happening – the introduction of a national carbon price in China.

In just over a month China will begin a massive experiment in emissions trading when the first of seven regional pilot schemes kicks off (and which one day may develop into a national scheme).

The stakes are high. China emits one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases. It is easily the world’s largest consumer of coal. In 2011 it released an estimated 9.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – more than the US and India combined.

In his speech Garnaut painted a cautious, but encouraging, picture of where China stands on climate change.

Read more here


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

More Posts