China has witnessed in recent years a real cultural turn in urban policies and practices. While the imperative of urban modernisation has often implied the cancellation of the tangible and intangible dimension of urban cultures until few years ago, today things have substantially changed.

Culture in its multiple forms (urban and rural heritage, traditional knowledge and new forms of urban creativity) is today acknowledged as a potential asset for sustainable development, and a powerful tool to enhance China’s soft power. This has initiated a new season of quality urban and rural regeneration and development marked by two milestone national policies: the 2014 New National Urbanization Plan and the 2018 New Rural Revitalization Plan.

Project background and case studies

This project on culture-led urban and rural regeneration builds upon a series of research initiatives led by Dr Giulio Verdini, over the last decade in China. The project forms the backbone of the MoU between the University of Westminster and WHITRAP Shanghai, The World Heritage Institute of Training and Research in the Asia-Pacific Region (a category two center of UNESCO), signed in April 2017.

The research aims to investigate emerging and innovative forms of culture-led and heritage-led urban and rural strategies, policies, and practices in China. In particular it intends ultimately to examine: 

  • The conflictive relationship between local cultures, heritage, and urban development, and between city governance and local communities.
  • The extent to which culture-led urban and rural policies are conducive of genuinely sustainable new practices, from a social and environmental perspective.

The research has so far received support from local governments and international agencies, and it has been developed in partnership with WHITRAP, Tongji University, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

Case studies already investigated are: inner city urban regeneration in Shanghai, Suzhou and Nanjing; rural villages in Jiangsu, Guizhou and Sichuan. 

In 2019 Dr. Giulio Verdini has, moreover, coordinated the UNESCO report on rural revitalization in China titled ‘Culture 2030. Rural-Urban Development. China at a glance’, presented at the UNESCO international conference held in Meishan, Sichuan, in June 2019.

Future research

Dr Giulio Verdini welcomes new PhD applications on this subject and will consider manuscripts or ideas for the Routledge Book Series ‘Planning, Heritage and Sustainability’ with a focus on China and other non-western contexts.

You can contact Dr Verdini at: [email protected].