Partners of the International Eco-Cities Initiative have published an article analysing branding practices across Chinese cities of different scales and industrial profiles.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing are global cities embedded within a regional context. They are surrounded by less populous and less internationally recognised neighbours, forming so-called mega-city regions, each encompassing a dozen or so cities. In order to attract investors, companies, workers and residents, these cities engage in city branding practices.

This paper argues that different industrial and regional profiles allow for different developmental pathways making different city branding strategies likely.

Depending on their scale and key industries, cities can adopt the following developmental pathways to respond to the challenge of ecological modernisation – achieving higher economic value at a lower environmental cost:

  • Eco-tourism – for regionally-oriented cities where the primary sector dominates
  • Advanced, low carbon manufacturing – for regional or nationally-oriented cities where the secondary sector dominates
  • Knowledge and culture-oriented services – for regionally or nationally-oriented cities where the tertiary sector dominates
  • High-tech innovation – for internationally-oriented cities where the secondary sector dominates
  • Global advanced producer services – for internationally-oriented cities where the tertiary sector dominates

The analysis shows that most cities brand themselves in conformity with what their pathway would lead one to predict, except cities with a strongly manufacturing oriented profile. These may adopt branding strategies that contrast sharply with their historical legacy and current profile, and risk promoting themselves in ways that the outside world is likely to perceive as lacking in credibility.

This research article was co-authored by Martin de Jong, Yawei Chen, Simon Joss, Haiyan Lu, Miaoxi Zhao, Qihui Yang and Chaoning Zhang and published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Download the paper for free before March 19.

Image: Barges transport goods on the Yangtze River in Nanjing city in China. Copyright: CHEN WS / courtesy of

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