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Urban entrepeneurialism and sustainable development: a comparative analysis of Chinese eco-developments

Xie, Linjun; Cheshmehzangi, Ali; Tan-Mullins, May; Flynn, Andrew; Heath, Tim


Linjun Xie

Ali Cheshmehzangi

May Tan-Mullins

Andrew Flynn


Focusing upon the strategic entrepreneurial planning of local government, this paper presents a critical analysis of the variability of Chinese urban sustainable development projects. In recent years, state entrepreneurialism and notions of (urban) sustainability have become ever more closely intertwined. As a result, there has been a proliferation of eco-/low-carbon and other similar sustainability-themed urban initiatives that have helped local states to achieve a favorable position in city competitions. Nevertheless, existing studies are still far from answering why Chinese urban sustainable projects are planned and implemented with divergent emphases and different development trajectories. Through case studies of three flagship Chinese sustainable projects with distinct development modes, namely the real-estate-centric Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City (SSTEC), the environmental-construction-led Chongming Eco-Islands (CEIs), and the industrial development-focused Shenzhen International Low Carbon City (ILCC), we argue that the formulation and implementation of urban sustainable developments are subject to local particularities and different extra-local (mainly municipal and district-level) political-economic contexts. We highlight how both vertical administrative governance and horizontal coordination between territorial jurisdictions underlie the Chinese entrepreneurial planning system, which results in different types of urban entrepreneurships: 1) scalable startup urban entrepreneurship (SSTEC); 2) asset-replacement-urban entrepreneurship (CEIs); and 3) expansion urban entrepreneurship (ILCC). This study also reveals that all three cases experience a development paradox as they strive to reconcile mutually competing economic and environmental imperatives.


Xie, L., Cheshmehzangi, A., Tan-Mullins, M., Flynn, A., & Heath, T. (2020). Urban entrepeneurialism and sustainable development: a comparative analysis of Chinese eco-developments. Journal of Urban Technology, 27(1), 3-26.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 30, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 12, 2019
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Sep 11, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2021
Journal Journal of Urban Technology
Print ISSN 1063-0732
Electronic ISSN 1466-1853
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 1
Pages 3-26
Keywords Urban sustainable development; State entrepreneurialism; Urban planning; Eco-city; Low-carbon city
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Published: 2019-11-12


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