Tag Archives: Dongtan

Contesting urban sustainabilities in China

Pow, C.P. and Neo, Harvey. (2013) Seeing red over green: contesting urban sustainabilities in China. Urban Studies. Prepublished March, 14, 2013, DOI: 10.1177/0042098013478239


The urban sustainability agenda is engaged at some levels with the two concepts of ecological modernisation and urban entrepreneurialism. While they share certain important commonalities (for example, the emphasis on what is normatively understood as ‘right’ policy-making), each has largely progressed on its own intellectual trajectory. It is suggested that the concepts of ecological modernisation and urban entrepreneurialism are crystallised and concretised in the idea(l) form of the ‘eco-city’ through the search for an ‘urban sustainability fix’ in urban China. Although the idea of constructing an ‘eco-city’ has been mooted since the 1980s, the concept remains somewhat elusive and controversial for a number of reasons. First, while its physical form and design appeal have often been promoted by urban planners, architects and government officials, the deeper normative tenets of building an eco-city are surprisingly ignored. Secondly, the lack of an ‘actually existing’ or successfully implemented eco-city project suggests the considerable amount of resistance and difficulties (in terms of planning, politics, economic costs, etc.) that the concept encounters in practice. To that end, the paper examines various green urban initiatives in reform China before focusing on the example of Shanghai’s Dongtan eco-city project (an entrepreneurial urban prestige-project jointly developed by the British and Chinese governments) to examine the challenges and contradictions of an urban sustainability fix in the guise of eco-city building in China.

Read the full article on SAGE Journals Online (restricted access)

  • Choo-Piew Pow, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore
  • Harvey Neo, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

Monique Abud

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

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