The Bartlett School of Planning


Zhenfa Li

Research subject

Financialising urban development in China

Primary supervisor: Professor Fulong Wu
Secondary supervisor: Dr Fangzhu Zhang
Starting date: September 2019
Projected completion date: September 2023 

It is of great significance to examine the situation in which both governments and markets actively participate into urban development through financial channels in China from a financialising perspective, not only because unique characteristics based on political and economic contexts will shape a differential financialising landscape compared to western countries which is a good theoretical and empirical supplement to existing literature, but certain findings may also help to deal with huge financial risks of local governments generated from their over-dependence on financial methods to promote urban construction. However, what is unfortunate is that there are still very few studies analysing such phenomenon from this point of view.

Based on this, by taking newly issued local government bond (LGB) as an example, my research tries to examine urban development financialisation from the perspective of states, markets and the interaction of these two stakeholders. To be more specific, I will firstly study how LGB circulates among governments at different levels and try to figure out if intergovernmental relations exert influences on it. Then, I will pay attention to the markets who purchase LGB, analysing their considerations on investing in a specific LGB project. Finally, I will also focus on the interaction between governments and markets to see how they affect each other during the process. After all of these, the question if urban development in China has been financialised will be answered in the case of LGB.


I finished my undergraduate study in Beijing Normal University majoring in Urban and Rural Planning and Resources and Environment Management. I studied financial geography under guidance of my head teacher, Dr Fenghua Pan and finished my undergraduate thesis based on it.

I finished my master study in Peking University in which my major was Geography (City and Regional Planning). My supervisor was Professor Canfei He, Dean of the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences. I mainly studied evolutionary economic geography and urban development from a financial geography/financialisation perspective. During this period, I published 1 English article and 7 Chinese articles.


Zhu, S., Li, Z., & He, C. (2019). Who leads regional industrial dynamics? “New industry creators” in Chinese regions. Growth and Change, 50(1), 69-89.