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SEAC Workshop: Urban Spectre of Global China

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

LSE (Graham Wallas Room, 5th floor, Old Building)


Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, LSE

The LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre hosted a workshop for the Centre's new research project funded by the British Academy entitled, "The Urban Spectre of Global China: Mechanisms, Consequences, and Alternatives for Urban Futures". This 18-month project examines four large-scale property development projects of Chinese capital, to question the ways in which the urban has been reconfigured by China’s global expansion, with research being undertaken in London, Iskandar Malaysia, Beijing and Foshan. 

The workshop, chaired by SEAC Director Prof. Hyun Bang Shin, involved a group presentation on the project scope (see the outline below) by the project investigators, followed by panel contributions from invited experts. 

Project outline: 

The overseas expansion of China’s economic influences has been foregrounded in media reports and policy debates in recent years. The term “Global China” has been widely adopted to depict the geopolitical dimension of this immense flow of capital. However, there is a lack of attention to the urban dimension of Global China, especially regarding its impacts on the (re)imaginings and manifestations of urban futures – within and beyond China. The project adopts a relational approach to comparative case studies, treating connections (Beijing-London and Foshan-Iskandar Malaysia) as cases. The specific projects are four large-scale Chinese capital-led property development projects, which will be scrutinised to understand the ways in which the urban has been reconfigured by China’s global expansion. The multi-sited fieldwork aims to uncover the differentiated modes of speculative and spectacular urban production in the Global China era and generate new insights for inclusive approaches to urban space, nature and modernity. The key research question is: how and to what extent does Global China produce the urban in a relational way that reconciles China’s urban transformation with local and geo-political conditions at the destination cities? Three sub-questions are as follows: 

  • (1) How are the geopolitical dynamics being interwoven into the processes and mechanisms of urban space production, shaping, delimiting or augmenting the fluidity of Global China?
  • (2) How is the Chinese capital “localising” itself in overseas property development projects by adapting to local and historical conditions while at the same time carrying on their “Chinese characteristics”?
  • (3) Does the China-originating urbanism travel internationally only to limit our visions of inclusive urban future?



  • Prof. Hyun Bang Shin, Principal Investigator
    Prof. Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre at LSE. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economy of urbanisation with particular attention to cities in Asian countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea and China. His research themes include the politics of displacement; gentrification; real estate speculation; the right to the city; and mega-events as urban spectacles.
  • Dr Sin Yee Koh, Co-Investigator
    Dr Koh is Senior Lecturer in Global Studies, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia. Her research, positioned in migration studies and urban studies, seeks to understand the causes, processes, and consequences of structural and urban inequalities, and how people cope individually and collectively under such conditions. She has recently published on cities and the super-rich, the globalisation of real estate, property tourism, and the role of intermediaries in elite transnational mobilities.
  • Dr Yimin Zhao, Co-Investigator
    Dr Zhao is Assistant Professor in Urban Planning and Management, School of Public Administration and Policy, Renmin University of China. His research focuses on the socio-spatial processes of urban change, attending particularly to the role of the state in politico-economic dynamics of urban land and environment. Trained in Human Geography and Urban Studies at the LSE, he has successfully finished his previous project on Beijing’s green belts and is now further developing his research expertise on the urban and the state by investigating the nexus of urban infrastructure, land and the everyday life – both in and beyond East Asia.



  • Dr Charlotte Goodburn is Lecturer in Chinese Politics and Development and Deputy Director of the Lau China Institute, King's College London. She completed her PhD in the Department of Land Economy at Cambridge, and holds a BA (in History) and an MPhil (in Contemporary Chinese Studies), also from Cambridge. She studied Mandarin at Peking University and at Taiwan Normal University, and has spent several years working, studying and conducting fieldwork in China. Her current research interests include Chinese politics and development, rural-urban migration and urbanisation, gender and household dynamics, and childhood and intergenerational poverty.
  • Prof. Ian Gordon is Emeritus Professor of Human Geography at LSE. His main research interests have been in urban development and policies, spatial labour markets, migration and spatial interaction, particularly in the context of major metropolitan regions. 
  • Prof. Scott Lash is Visiting Professor at School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong and Senior Research Associate at Oxford COMPAS (Centre on Migration Policy and Society). He is author or co-author of Experience, China Constructing Capitalism, Economies of Signs and Space, Critique of Information, The End of Organized Capitalism, and Reflexive Modernization. There are eight translations of his books in Chinese and a number in Korean and Japanese. His current research is on logistics and infrastructure power in China. 
  • Prof. Jennifer Robinson is Chair of Human Geography at UCL's Urban Laboratory. Her current research interests focus on developing a postcolonial critique of urban studies. Her book, Ordinary Cities (2006) looks at how the interplay between urban modernity and development frames a conceptual and practical divide between "Western" and "Third World" cities. She is currently undertaking an ESRC-funded research project that compares the governance of large scale urban development projects in London, Johannesburg and Shanghai. 



This workshop relates to SEAC's #urbanisation and #connectivity themes



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