Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Bridging theory and practice: Participatory planning in China

Zhou, Zhihua



Abstract: The paper aims at a greater understanding of how citizen participation, a concept traditionally linked with democracy, could be articulated in the regional planning process in the Chinese one-party state regime with the top-down governance mechanism, by investigating two regeneration projects at the city level. It finds that the citizen participation in planning is still limited; there has been less success in changing the existing urban governance structure to incorporate the grassroots into the decision-making process, despite participative legislation mechanisms being in place for a decade. Barriers to participatory planning include the absence of substantial instructions in laws and regulations, the lack of motivation, interest, and confidence among inhabitants, and the we versus they mentality of planners, citizens and officials. Ultimately, the practice of citizen participation has been confined by the top-down governance structure in which officials with the GDP-orientated development mindset and entrenched totalitarian thoughts are able to retain their power in decision-making. The paper suggests that the promotion of citizen engagement in planning lies on the improvement of the legislative package for citizen participation, the changes of we versus they mentality of citizens, planners and officials, but fundamentally on the commitment from the central government on political restructuring of the roles of local authorities towards a more inclusive and less hierarchical and paternalistic governance mode to ensure sincere participatory planning to take place.


Zhou, Z. (2018). Bridging theory and practice: Participatory planning in China. International Journal of Urban Sciences, 22(3), 334-348.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 3, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 16, 2017
Publication Date Jul 3, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 19, 2018
Journal International Journal of Urban Sciences
Print ISSN 1226-5934
Electronic ISSN 2161-6779
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 3
Pages 334-348
Keywords bridging, theory, practice, participatory planning, China
Public URL
Publisher URL