Shuwen Zhou

DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development


An Urban Planning Paradigm Shift? An examination of the boom of participatory urban planning in China

Research abstract

This thesis captures the eye-catching emergence of public participation in urban planning in China which likely indicates that a paradigm shift is occurring in the urban planning system in China. The assumption for the study is that the paradigm shift from rational comprehensive planning to participatory urban planning in China roots in the slow-down of urban sprawl but increasing demand for urban renewal, and the breakthrough of urbanisation rate over 50% which prompts urban conflicts under the spotlight. Meanwhile, the boom of utilising digital instruments in planning provides handy tools to the planners and reduces obstacles of participatory approaches in practice.

To test the assumption, the research will examine the main question: what is driving force behind the broad practice of public participation in urban planning in China.


David Howard


Shuwen Zhou started her DPhil in 2018. She received MA in Public Policy from the University of Tokyo, and MSc in Urban Development Planning from the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (UCL). She works as a project lead on poverty and urbanisation at UNDP China. Before, she researched at the Asian Development Bank Institute (Tokyo) and participated in several community-led slum upgrading projects coordinated by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) in Bangkok and Manila. Her DPhil research is supported by Jing'e Fellowship, receiving funding from Yifang Foundation. 



Zhou, S. (2018) “Formalisation of Fresh Food Markets in China: The Story of Hangzhou.” Integrating Food into Urban Planning, edited by Yves Cabannes and Cecilia Marocchino, UCL Press, London, 2018, pp. 247–263. JSTOR,



Research interests

urban governance, urban planning, public participation, social inclusion & exclusion