The Bartlett School of Planning


Yining Liu

Research subject

China’s Neighbourhood-Scale Environmental Initiatives under Ecological Civilization: A Governmentality Perspective

Primary supervisor: Dr Fangzhu Zhang
Secondary supervisor: Prof Yvonne Rydin
Starting date: April 2022
Projected completion date: April 2026
Email: yining.liu.17@ucl.ac.uk

This research investigates the materialisation of Ecological Civilization (EC), as a form of environmental governmentality in China, through the lens of neighbourhood-scale environmental projects. EC paradigm in China can be identified as environmental governmentality, which seeks for the subject populations to act in conformance with governmental environmental objectives. However, the representation of the EC governmentality across scales and the subjectivisation of civil society towards it are not yet fully explored. Under the current environmental governance paradigm, neighbourhood scale practices can be considered effective evidence of how the multi-scalar states under the EC paradigm deploy governing techniques and achieve the internalisation of EC rationalities.

In order to reflect the transforming state-civil society relations in China’s environmental governance, two case studies from Beijing and Shanghai are employed. The development of neighbourhood-scale environmental projects and their respective governance trajectories will be analysed, exploring whether the rise of a greening civil society is a result of new governmentality. The Beijing case study demonstrated the innovative governance techniques deployed by the states to intervene in community-centred environmental upgrade initiatives. In comparison, the case study of Shanghai’s community garden initiatives provided how ecological civilisation as governmentality mobilises self-organised local intellectuals, community members and private and public sector actors to form a network of community garden practices in multiple localities. The variegated forms of state-civil society interactions will potentially reflect how the emerging governmentality is reshaping priorities, power dynamics and roles of the state and its subjects; and how in turn, the innovations in the civil society could contribute to the reinforcement of the EC paradigm.


Yining Liu is a PhD student at the Bartlett, UCL, under the supervision of Dr. Fangzhu Zhang and Prof. Yvonne Rydin. She got her MSc International Planning and BSc Urban Planning, Design and Management degrees from the UCL Bartlett School of Planning. Her research interests lie in the transitions of China’s environmental governmentality and the development of Eco-civilization at a neighbourhood scale.


Book chapter: Fangzhu Zhang, Fulong Wu, Yining Liu (2023) ‘China’s urban environmental governance’ in Handbook on China’s Urban Environmental Governance. In Press.