Yizhao Du

Building Up a Cooperative Framework

Engaging Secondary Cities Towards Sustainable Regions in China

Promoter: Assoc. Prof. Roberto Rocco (Spatial Planning and Strategy)

Supervisor: Asst. Prof. Rodrigo Viseu Cardoso (Spatial Planning and Strategy)

The specific socio-economic system of China provides three key characteristics to its regionalisation process: 1) aiming for balanced regional development, 2) taking regional cooperation as a fundamental approach, and 3) sharing leadership across multiple levels of government. These characteristics contribute to the remarkable Chinese achievements in regional development but have also led to conflicts, namely between regional core cities and their respective secondary cities, regional cooperation and competition models, and decision-makers and policy implementers. Under these circumstances, the sustainable development of secondary cities may be severely hindered as they become the weakest link in regional strategies and do not benefit from regional development. However, the potential of secondary cities in promoting a balanced and healthy regionalization process is increasingly recognised and valued. This research project will investigate different aspects of regionalisation and governance in order to answer whether and how a cooperative regional framework can promote the sustainable socioeconomic transformation of Chinese secondary cities.

The project follows a research trajectory based on defining-analysing-optimising. This means that the sub-questions are designed to address the steps of contextualisation, theoretical underpinnings, evaluation, case studies, and strategic policy recommendations. The corresponding methodological perspectives entail multi-scalar (space) and development dynamics (time) analyses, moving from comprehensive to increasingly specific analytic dimensions. The main aim of the research is to make regional cooperation frameworks play a more significant role in promoting the socioeconomic transformation of secondary cities. The project contributes both to extending the theories and discourses on “secondary cities” in the Chinese context, as well as providing relevant policy recommendations for their sustainable transition.

Yizhao Du is a PhD candidate in the Spatial Planning and Strategy section. He graduated with an MSc in Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences (cum laude) at TU Delft in June 2021. Having been exploring the field of urbanism for 8 years, he constructed a comprehensive knowledge system, both theoretical and practical, including Urban (and Rural) Sustainability, Environmental Technology, and Regional Planning. He got the “Ziqiangzhixing” national scholarship for excellent university student in 2019, and the best award of China Committee of Urban Planning Education in 2018. He has served as the chair-leader of the youth club in World Urban Planning Education Network (Shanghai, China) since November 2021, striving to build a communication platform for young scholars in the field of urbanism. As a PhD candidate, his focus is on regional development and secondary cities in China. He explores regional sustainability through the potentials and opportunities of secondary cities in China’s regional system.

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