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Dr. Jie Guo

Guo Jie

Fellow in the project "Social Worlds: China's Cities as Spaces of Worldmaking" (June - August 2023)

Short Biography

Jie received a Ph.D. in Human Geography from the Heidelberg University in 2016 and is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Guangdong Academy of Sciences, China. Her study involves the intersections between China's system reform and elite-led, capital-driven urbanization processes, and the dynamic balance of power relations, public-private interactions, and political-institutional arrangements that are reflected in and are conversely shaped by, the changes to the urban built environment. Her recent study involves the smart city movement and platform governance on China’s digital Silk Road, with specific attention to the political, economic, and social rationals and the dynamics of power geometries behind China’s smart city transformation. Her monograph "Reshaping Chinese cities: neoliberal transition, contestations and urban renewal of Lanzhou" was published in LIT Verlage, and her recent study was awarded the Urban Geography Early Career Research Prize (see here for details https://urbangeographyjournal.org/2020-early-career-research-prize/).


Making Smart Cities on Digital Silk Road: China’s role in global knowledge production

China has recently launched a 500 smart-city agenda and also pointed to an ambitious goal of “building a digital infrastructure network that connects all BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) cities by means of big data and digital platforms”. A series of flagship projects have been launched in collaboration with the Chinese central and local governments, urban planners, research institutions, IT companies, and local communities, and been built and labeled as city/project samples for promotion to China and overseas cities. The concept and discourse of smart urbanism derived from local practices in China emphasize top-down design and state-control are challenging the current prevailing corporate- and technology-driven version in the globe, and are potentially becoming a regional or even worldwide shared script.

Given that China is both a place for urban technique experiments and a production place for new concepts and models, this study will focus on the production and promotion process of China’s smart city projects, and the negotiation of agents from multiple scales and places. It will ask: How is the concept of smart urbanism being introduced and translated into China, by whom and for what; How do local conditions and the situated practices of local actors shape China’s smart urbanization; How do local development trajectories, politico-economic conditions, and socio-spatial contestations lead to alternative discourses around “smartness”; and following China's BRI initiative, how they are inserted into the circulation of global knowledge, potentially subverting existing ‘best practice’?

This study aims to dilute the dominant status of global northern cities in shaping global imaginaries and deconstruct the “technology-determined discourse” of smartness in the current literature, with a highlight on the social constructivist nature of smart cities and the role of the Global South in knowledge production.