This dissertation examines an emerging ecological urbanization paradigm: Eco-cities. Eco-cities promise to contain hyper-urbanization and eradicate urban environmental problems by building cities as sustainable ecological systems. Originated from the post-industrial societies in the global North, the eco-city paradigm transforms when it travels to, and navigates through, the local contexts in the global South. Different planning ideas and variegated practice emerge from this process. These ideas and practices become new standards of ecological urbanization, and circulate back to international communities as alternatives to compete with the original visions. This dissertation undertook a relational comparative research on the Sino-British Shanghai Dongtan Eco-City and the Sino-Singaporean Tianjin Binhai Eco-City. These two projects represent distinct eco-city models, different from one another, and also from Western models. The two case studies were complemented by a multi-site investigation of the actors involved in the construction of these eco-city projects in Shanghai, Tianjin, Singapore, and London. Through archival research, in-person semi-structured and open-ended interviews, and participant observation at project sites, this dissertation first analyzes the particular form of ecological urbanization adopted by these two most prominent eco-city projects in China, and their relationships with Western eco-city principles. The dissertation further reveals how connectivities between the four sites shaped the development at each node. The findings of this dissertation provide new insight into how green urbanism regimes function in China, and how eco-city models differentiate and variegate as they travel to the global South. They advance our understanding of the diffusion and dissemination of contemporary ecological urbanization agendas, their local variegations and mutations, and their external impact on the socio-spatial transformation of cities across the globe. Most importantly, the findings of this dissertation enable us to critically reflect on the adequacy of Western urban and sustainability theories for explaining emergent ecological urbanization paradigms in the global South.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2015. Major: Geography. Advisors: Helga Leitner, Eric Sheppard. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 182 pages.
Variegated Geographies of Ecological Urbanization: China's Eco-Cities in Global Context.
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