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Inter-jurisdictional Cooperation and mega-city region governance in the Pearl River Delta

This feature research is led by Professor Jiang Xu with the support of two General Research Grants funded by the Hong Kong Research Grant Council. Since the late 1970s, the PRD has undergone significant transformation because of market reform, globalization, and rapid urbanization. Many cities and towns that were formerly peripheral or rural areas have developed into active economic centres in their own rights. The resultant polycentric spatial form has combined with the rise of urban entrepreneurialism (a widespread key municipal strategy to enhance place specific socio-economic assets). This reform-imposed transition leads to a rapidly developing political environment that exhorts cities to compete against one another for mobile capital and policy inclination. Recommendations for solving the problems of the political fragmentation often call for more cooperation among cities. Yet we know little about how such cooperation evolves and planning strategies are implemented.

This research examines inter-jurisdictional cooperation and governance issue within the context of state reconstruction and regional politics in China. The main objective is to evaluate whether or not there is any planning strategies can be used effectively to restructure state function in spatial development in the PRD. Our preliminary findings suggest that: (1) competition and cooperation in China bear strong legacies of a transitional society; (2) there is no single format of inter-jurisdictional cooperation. Such cooperation is divergent to reflect contextually specific governance problem; (3) there is no institutional structure for government partnership. However, state efforts are being made to institutionalize such practice; (4) inter-jurisdictional cooperation can be achieved through planning coordination, which is closely related to state reconstruction toward re-centralization and re-regulation. This finding presents a new state-theoretical interpretation of China’s territorial transformation. The basic argument is that, rather than viewing the urban and regional transformation in China only as a major consequence of decentralization and marketlization process, there is a resurgence of the regulatory power of the state, oriented towards the priority of re-centralization and rehierarchization in Chinese mega-city regions. With this new perspective, the research re-interprets the uneasy coexistence of market and state in space commodification, the very fundamental and dualistic feature of urban and regional growth under transition. This research offers the one of the earliest theoretical frameworks to understand state re-regulation, which counters devolution thesis widely studied in the literature of China’s urban and regional governance today. The research findings have changed the prevailing view towards the nature of state intervention in space formation in China.

The Pearl River Delta Yantian Port in Shenzhen Waterfront in Zhuhai Nine policy zones in the PRD