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The changing role of urban planners in transitional China: Expectations, appropriateness and 'making a difference'

Feng, Xin (2016) The changing role of urban planners in transitional China: Expectations, appropriateness and 'making a difference'. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

In planning literature there has been a deal of great interest in the development of urban planning roles in response to the changing planning conditions in cities. This dissertation contributes to this discussion by developing a framework which aims to support the understanding of the changing role of planners in this aspect of planning knowledge. What emerges from this research is a more complex understanding that suggests the role expectations of planners and planning knowledge should not be read as specially demarcated and unchanging social attributes. Instead, the focus of inquiry should be on the continuous process of social and political change which affects the way planners conceptualize problems, forming rules of practice. Research was carried out using a qualitative strategy in two phases of interviews with Chinese planners from Beijing and Harbin. China offers fertile ground to explore these issues. Decentralization, economic reform and globalization have brought great changes to Chinese cities. Accelerated urbanization has generated continuous rapid growth creating a series of social problems. The transitions have brought new concerns to light, the ‘rule of law’, ‘GDP-oriented urban growth’, ‘making professional judgement’ and ‘getting the public voice involved’. The old planning traditions persist and continue to wield power, including, ‘keeping uniformity with the central power’, ‘giving legitimacy to local authorities’ and ‘setting the world in order’. By capturing these messy, dynamic and contextualised processes that construct the role of planners, the analytical lens of planning knowledge offers a view of understanding a transitional context. How planners located themselves in different roles, as ‘handmaiden of power’, ‘initiative knower’ and ‘active initiator’, has become important in clarifying the rules, making distinctions and determining what the situation was and what kind of knowledge fits. This research should be of interest to urban planning practitioners in China and also internationally, and to researchers interested in the planning profession.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Urban Studies and Planning (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.701759
Depositing User: Dr. Xin Feng
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2017 10:22
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:02
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/16025

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