The Bartlett School of Planning


Mengci Xiao

Research subject

Reframing Urban Conservation Discourse Via a Lens of Stakeholder Involvement: The Cases of China’s Historic Urban Landscapes

Primary supervisor: Prof. Elisabete Cidre
Secondary supervisor: Dr. Lucy Natarajan
Starting date: November 2019
Projected completion date: September 2023
Sponsor: Henry Lester Trust, Funds for Women Graduates, Sino-British Fellowship Trust, UCCL Grant

Mengci Xiao

This research aims to (re)examine the relationship between urban conservation and public participation by investigating the process of involving stakeholders in conserving urban heritage sites in China. It responds to the need of developing a place-based, alternative understanding of participatory approaches in urban conservation, considering that underpinning theories of participatory urban conservation have been developed within the framework of western intellectual traditions, relying on democratic socio-political structures. Using discourse analysis, the research first explores how participatory approaches to heritage conservation have been fed into theoretical and public debates to guide the development of the urban conservation framework in China. Second, employing case studies, namely the conservation projects in Hongkou-Creek historic neighbourhoods and Kulangsu (Gulangyu) World Heritage Site, this research examines the societal and development uses of stakeholders’ participation in urban conservation through an inquiry of historic urban landscape (HUL) in China. Overall, this research contributes to the debate that aims to integrate public participation theories into urban conservation discourse, particularly in the context of sustainable development. Focusing on perspectives in China, a non-Western democratic context, this research also sheds light on exchanging and rebalancing knowledge that serves the purpose of addressing urban conservation issues. Of those issues, a particular focus is given to the strategy-making for developing urban heritage sites in which different participating groups experience unequal power relations in the conservation process.


I joined Bartlett School of Planning as a doctoral student in 2019. Prior to this, I received my master’s degree in urban design and International Planning at the University of Manchester (distinction). My master thesis—’Rethinking International Heritage Conservation Principles: Their Interpretations and Practices in China’ awarded the highly commanded performance in planning and environmental management. My current research projects focus on people-centred, conservation-led urban sustainable development, as well as cultural economy and integrated heritage tourism development.

Conference papers/presentations

Presentation in AESOP E-Seminar for Ph.D. Candidate in Planning Studies


I am a teaching staff in modules including Planning Discourses for Urban Development in Historic Cities and Neighbourhoods; Spatial Planning: Concepts and Contexts; Management for Build Environment Professionals; Urban and Environmental Politics; Design and Real Estate; Urban Design and International Planning; Introducing Urban Design: Design Skills; and Manchester UG Field Trip.


Postgraduate research associate at Tsinghua University with the project ‘understanding the convergence between culture and tourism in the U.K. and China’.