I received a Ph.D. in Human Geography from the Heidelberg University in 2016 and am currently an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Guangdong Academy of Sciences, China. My study involves China’s institutional transition, urban governance, and socio-spatial dynamics. What interests me most are the intersections between China’s system reform and elite-led, capital-driven urbanization processes, and the dynamic balance of power relations, public-private interactions, and political-institutional arrangements that are reflected in, and are conversely shaped by, the changes to the urban built environment.
My article, Promotion-driven local states and governing cities in action—re-reading China’s urban entrepreneurialism from a local perspective, comes from my PhD research project. In the early stage of my doctoral study, I planned to adopt a neoliberal lens to explain the uniqueness of China’s governance regime and the socio-economic consequences. However, as my understanding of China’s institutional-political system and authoritarian governance tradition deepened, I gradually realized the limitations of the concept of neoliberalism and related theories in explaining China’s governance regime and urban issues. At the same time, I started to be puzzled by the question why China’s urban governance and socio-economic dynamics are both similar and unique to Western cases. Out of this confusion, I began to shift my focus to China’s politico-economic system and governance tradition itself to seek answers. In Promotion-driven local states and governing cities in action, I found that although the external pressure under the global neoliberalism should not be denied, under China’s hierarchical supervision system, building performance and seeking promotion during the tenure are the internal impulses for Chinese local states and their leaders to pursue entrepreneurialism. Therefore, I found that the entrepreneurial endeavors of Chinese local governments are not necessarily aimed at enhancing local attractiveness and competitiveness in the global market, but as a means for local officials to accumulate political capital and pursue career advancement. The specific entrepreneurial practices adopted by local authorities depend to a large extent on the scalar interaction between the central and local governments and the inherent development trajectory of the city.
It is very fortunate to be able to receive this honor among many excellent papers. This award is not only a recognition of my past efforts but also an encouragement, which will inspire me to continue my research on southern cities in the future.