From  15th – 22nd September 2019, RC21 conference, “In and Beyond the City: Emerging Ontologies, Persistent Challenges and Hopeful Futures” was held in Delhi, India, and the visit to Delhi was a memorable one.

At the conference, I convened sessions entitled “The Urban Spectre of ‘Global China’ and Critical Reflections on its Spatiality” together with my co-investigators (Dr Sin Yee Koh at Monash University Malaysia and Dr Yimin Zhao at Renmin University of China) of the British Academy project, The Urban Spectre of Global China. The conference sessions came out of the project activities. The synopsis of the sessions as disseminated in the original call for papers was as follows.

The overseas expansion of China’s economic influence has recently been foregrounded in media reports and policy debates. The term ‘Global China’ has been widely adopted to depict the geopolitical dimension of this immense flow of capital. However, there is still a lack of attention to the urban dimension of ‘Global China’, especially regarding its impacts on the (re)imaginings and manifestations of urban futures – both within and beyond China.

In extant literature on Global China, two main features stand out. The first is the tendency to bound discussions of China’s role in global capital flows within Africa, and to theorise this role in terms of neo-colonialism. The second feature is the overt focus on the role of Chinese capital in industrial sectors – for example through investigations of labour conflicts (Giese 2013), labour regimes (Lee 2009, 2018), and workplace regimes (Fei et al. 2018). While there are increasing discussions on the spatiality of ‘Global China’, especially in relation to the ’Belt and Road’ (BRI) discourse, they are still closely linked to industrial sectors. 

In this stream, we seek to address the existing gaps identified above through a focus on the urban spectre of ‘Global China’. We welcome theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions that address the interconnections and intersections between the rise of ‘Global China’ and ‘the urban’ (broadly defined). We aim to bring together papers that (1) critically examine the differentiated modes of speculative and spectacular urban production; (2) discuss the ways in which ‘the urban’ has been reconfigured by ‘Global China’; and (3) identify the theoretical and empirical implications for urban futures.

Call for Papers, “The Urban Spectre of ‘Global China’ and Critical Reflections on its Spatiality

The presented papers were as follows:

Nr.Session #S35Presenter NameAffiliationPaper Title
11-2.30 pmSin Yee KohMonash University MalaysiaMoving the Mountain and Greening the Sea for Whom? ‘Forest City’ and the Transplantation of Green Urbanism in Iskandar Malaysia (co-authored with Yimin Zhao and Hyun Bang Shin)
21-2.30 pmDiganta Das (w/ Sarah Moser)Nanyang Technological UniversityChina’s new urban outposts and emerging urbanism across Southeast Asia
31-2.30 pmCharlotte GoodburnKing’s College LondonExporting Export Zones: impacts of a Chinese model of urbanisation in rural south India (co-authored with Dr Jan Knoerich)
41-2.30 pmLewis Abedi AsanteHumboldt-Universitȁt zu BerlinUrban Governance through Global Financing? Conflicts and Consequences of Chinese Funding of the Kotokuraba Market Project in Cape Coast, Ghana (co-authored with Ilse Helbrecht)
Nr.Session #S35Presenter NameAffiliationPaper Title
12.30-4.00 pmIbrahima NiangUniversity of DhakaMobility, space and culture: Chinese presence and the reconfiguration of urban space in Dakar, Senegal
22.30-4.00 pmIgal CharneyUniversity of HaifaA global city-region as political construct:  making the Pearl River Delta into the Greater Bay Area
32.30-4.00 pmProf Loraine KennedyEHESSDiscussant

In addition to the above sessions, it was my honour to co-host a panel event and refreshments and represent the Urban Studies Foundation on Friday 20th September. The panel event included a short panel discussion about USF funding schemes and opportunities for the Urban Studies community.

Photograph courtesy of Lewis Asante