Public space and the Chinese city

Carolyn Cartier, Wing Shing Tang

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingConference proceeding


What, where and when is public space in the Chinese city? This paper examines the idea of public space and the space of the Chinese city in historic and contemporary perspective to assess: the nature of public space in the Chinese city, where it is found or its morphological contexts, and under what political economic circumstances such spaces emerged in the Chinese urban landscape. The analysis is premised upon the recognition that public space, as understood in the contemporary international geographical literature, did not historically characterize the Chinese city; and that even the idea of 'public'; as in 'public sphere' and in relation to contemporary ideas of citizenship, emerged in particular contexts in China. On the idea of public space, we observe that the international theoretical literature, including the critical geographical scholarship on public space, remains imbued with unstated ideological positions including the role of the individual in liberal political democracies; indeed, in maintaining such biases, it has not realized its full critical potential. Thus it cannot provide a suitable theoretical basis for general analysis in diverse social conditions, including Chinese urbanism. On this basis, the paper argues that meanings of what is public space in China represent a different trajectory of state-society relations and the production of space, which is not to be understood as the 'China difference' or simply a non-Western perspective, but rather recognition of an alternative form that serves as an intervention in the development of critical theoretical work in an era of transnational and postcolonial scholarship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of International Conference on Globalization and Transformation of Megacity = 全球化与大都市发展论坛国际会议论文汇编
PublisherThe Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
EventInternational Conference on Globalization and Transformation of Megacity = 全球化与大都市发展论坛国际会议 - East China Normal University, Shanghai, China
Duration: 22 Jun 200723 Jun 2007


ConferenceInternational Conference on Globalization and Transformation of Megacity = 全球化与大都市发展论坛国际会议


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