Theorising urban planning in a transitional economy: The case of Shenzhen, People's Republic of China

Mee Kam Ng*, Wing Shing TANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Most of the existing planning theories (theories in urban development, of planning practice and justifications for planning) and debates about their interrelationships are derived from the contexts of basically 'demand-constrained' (capitalist) economies. Some authors have attempted to theorise urban planning in transitional economies. However, theorisation based on concrete planning practices in a city in the transition from a 'resource-constrained' to a 'demand-constrained' economy is an uncharted terrain. This paper attempts to take up this challenge and through a detailed case study of Shenzhen, China's first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) explores the relationships between urban development and planning in a transitional economy. Shenzhen's experience proves that a perceptive understanding of urban development can provide us with important clues for understanding the nature of and theoretical justifications for changing urban planning practices. In return, the reformed planning practice helps sharpen our reflections on the constraints and feasible options of urban development in a transitional economy. In this sense, urban planning practice, at least in the case of Shenzhen, is 'path dependent' and has the potential to be increasingly 'path shaping'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-203
Number of pages31
JournalTown Planning Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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