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Developer-led new eco-cities in China - identification, assessment and solution of environmental issues in planning

Time: Fri 2023-05-05 10.00

Location: Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, Stockholm

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Language: English

Subject area: Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies

Doctoral student: Miao Xu , Urbana och regionala studier

Opponent: Professor Stig Westerdahl, Malmö universitet

Supervisor: Professor Hans Westlund, Urbana och regionala studier

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QC 20230417


In the course of China’s rapid urbanization and in the context of the country’s legalization of “ecological civilization”, “ecology” has become a basic requirement of the Chinese government for all new city construction. With the policy guidance of Chinese ministries being to support eco-cities, new eco-cities are flourishing in China. However, there is also growing concern about the environmental problems that have been revealed in China’s new eco-cities. In particular, new eco-cities led by private enterprises have been affected by environmental issues due to their own resource constraints, which have even led to engineering accidents and economic losses. 

The thesis selects the research question to be “how environmental issues are identified and assessed in the initial stage of planning and how stakeholders collaborate in addressing environmental impacts in new eco-cities managed by developers”. The thesis takes the following approach: Identifying problems in practice – Finding gaps in theory – Defining a research aim – Setting a theoretical framework – Conducting empirical research – Solving the problem. By comparing the practice of already completed new eco-cities with that of China’s new eco-cities, the environmental challenges faced by China’s new eco-cities when led by private companies are identified. The thesis then reviews a large number of theoretical and practical studies related to such environmental challenges faced by China’s new eco-cities. Decision theory and social capital theory are used as the theoretical framework to propose an ideal model to guide the actions of China’s new eco-cities led by private companies in addressing environmental problems in the initial stages of planning. A specially developed Ecological Safety Assessment Form (ESAF) is applied to identify and assess the environmental issues of the new eco-cities. The ideal model is modified by comparing the actions of stakeholders in addressing environmental problems in practice with the ideal model in theory. The research aims to develop a working approach that can help private companies building new eco-cities in China to identify, assess and address environmental problems in the initial stages of planning, as well as to assist stakeholders in achieving collaboration in addressing these problems. The ambition is that this approach can be applied in practice. 

The empirical study takes the new eco-cities of the developer company China Fortune Land Development (CFLD) as the research objects. Field interviews and participant observations are used to address the environmental problems previously and currently faced by new cities. The ESAF was summarized and developed by document study. A transdisciplinary participatory action research (TPAR) approach was used to test the application of the ESAF in CFLD’s new cities and collaboration of various stakeholders in addressing environmental problems. The findings of the study are then discussed. The main delineations and limitations of the thesis are systematically reviewed. Directions and focal points of future research work are also proposed. 

Keywords: new eco-cities, deision theory, social capital theory, PPP, environmental problems, initial planning stages, collaboration