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Maturing Governance of Urban Regeneration: Experimenting and Learning - Case Study of Guangzhou and Shenzhen in South China
Over the last two decades, China has undergone urban regeneration at an unprecedented scale and speed, and property-led redevelopment has been widely deployed as dominant urban regeneration strategy in many Chinese cities. Meanwhile, more and more attention has been paid to the protest and resistance by parts of the civil society to the tremendous demolition and eviction during urban regeneration in China. Urban regeneration during the transformation period has been a fertile ground for the governance debate, especially with regard to the existing regulatory practices and institutional settings. This research aims to examine the governance of urban regeneration in China in an integrated manner by taking into account structural context, institutions, actors, and practices. It adapts the analytical research framework by DiGaetano and Strom (2003). It examines the epistemological dynamics of how different forms of knowledge are utilized, shared and produced by various actors according to their respective knowledge, behavioral logics, and interests. It also explores the interplay of institutions, actors’ practices, and knowledge in the spatial restructuring and social innovation processes of urban regeneration, as well as the collective social learning process through experimental pioneer projects and learning from international good practice. Thus this study tries to explain how formal and informal institutions are shaped by knowledge, and further proves that social learning contributes to policymaking and institutional innovation in China. Technical, institutional and local knowledge are activated and utilized to construct storylines by the government, planners, scholars, journalists, residents and NGOs, which contribute to the complex processes of framing and reframing problems and strategies in urban regeneration, and also of continuous experimentation on various adaptive strategies. The utilization, production, and transfer of knowledge enable actors to change their positions and influence the existing power structures. Knowledge has been viewed as a resource and as invisible capital. Three types of knowledge are complexly intertwined in the process of knowledge utilization, production and sharing. Knowledge utilization and production through networking and interacting of various actors enables social learning. Through learning from other projects and cities, problem and strategy framing becomes more structured and certain during a continuously experimental practice, and thus facilitates the production of practice-based and research-based knowledge. Knowledge production is very dynamic and active in the last decade, especially due to a shift towards urban entrepreneurialism. The increasing participation demand of market and society are accompanied by the knowledge dynamics driven by non-state actors. Urban regeneration creates a great demand for knowledge concerning the coordination and balancing of plural actors’ interests and relationships. Institutional innovation in urban regeneration is realized through translating accumulated practice-based implicit knowledge into explicit research results or codified policy-related knowledge. Social learning is inextricably tied to problem framing, as the practice of problem framing and problem solving through pilot projects at the micro-level enables incremental “policy patching” through continuous policy revision. The close relationship among discourse, knowledge and social learning proves the necessity of undertaking discourse analysis as research approach in this study. The institutional framework of urban regeneration in the Pearl River Delta area in South China indicates dynamic innovations especially in the last decade. Three pioneer and experimental urban regeneration projects in Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the Pearl River Delta area in South China will therefore serve as case studies in this research.