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Governing Neighbourhoods: The UK, Taiwan and China

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Sturzaker
    Prof M Chen
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Applications are invited for a dual PhD studentship between the University of Liverpool, UK and the National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, to begin in October 2015 or soon after.

This research is intended to focus on a form of governance that is increasingly emphasised in many countries – that of the neighbourhood/community scale. In the UK, the 2011 Localism Act devolved new powers to urban and rural neighbourhoods to develop their own statutory plan – a policy that has had a distinctly mixed response from professional planners and others (Sturzaker, 2011b). In China, whilst during the first 40 years or so of the People’s Republic of China, unofficial autonomous groupings were discouraged by the Chinese state, before this there was “thousands of years of tradition” of “semi-official grassroots organizations” in China, known as baoja (Yip, 2014, p. 5); and in recent years, state-organised residents’ committees and autonomous homeowners’ associations have sprung up, prompting some to argue that that “the emergence of civil society in urban China appears to be in sight” (Guo & Sun, 2014, p. 91). In Taiwan, the role of Neighbourhood Wardens has changed in recent years, from being extensions of the central state to democratically elected community representatives (Read, 2012), part of the broader democratic reforms in the country since the late 1970s (Fan & Chen, 2007).

These forms of neighbourhood governance, however, remain significantly under-researched, both in theory and in practice. Western theories around neighbourhood governance “were created against the backdrop of a pluralist model of societal organization” (Read, 2014, p. 30), with more-or-less independent grassroots activity. That model is not directly transferable to non-Western contexts. We also know very little about why people choose to get involved in neighbourhood governance practices. Whilst some work has been done in, for example, the Republic of Ireland on the reasons for getting involved in planning decision-making (Ellis, 2004), there is a need to explore motivations for involvement in other contexts. We have criticised elsewhere “the assumption [in China] that homeowners become active purely or primarily for economic reasons” (Sturzaker, 2015), but this assumption is also made in the UK (Matthews et al., 2014). Undoubtedly for some the motivation is largely or purely selfish/economic, but our existing research suggests that there may be a much broader range of reasons for engagement (Sturzaker, 2011a).

This research will focus on, therefore, the development of an empirically informed theoretical model of motivations for engagement in neighbourhood-level governance, drawing upon case studies in China, Taiwan and the UK. As two-thirds of the focus of this study is in Taiwan/mainland China, the expectation is that the student spends more time in Hsinchu (32 months) than Liverpool (16 months), but the precise pattern of work will be agreed with the successful candidate.

The funding for this programme covers tuition fees and a contribution to living expenses of $10,000 New Taiwanese Dollars per month.

For further information about the project please contact Dr John Sturzaker, on +44 (0) 151 794 3109, or [email protected]


Ellis, G. (2004) 'Discourses of objection: towards an understanding of third-party rights in planning', Environment and Planning A, vol. 36, no. 9, pp. 1549-1570.

Fan, Y. & Chen, M-C. (2007) The Weakness of a Post-Authoritarian Democratic Society: Reflections upon Taiwan’s Societal Crisis during the SARS Outbreak, in Deborah Davis & Helen Siu (eds.), SARS: Reception and Interpretation in Three Chinese Cities, Routledge, London, pp. 147-164.

Guo, S. & Sun, X. (2014) Loyalist-activist networks and institutional identification in urban neighbourhoods, in N.-M. Yip (ed.), Neighbourhood Governance in Urban China, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp. 90-111.

Matthews, P., Bramley, G. & Hastings, A. (2014) 'Homo Economicus in a Big Society: Understanding Middle-class Activism and NIMBYism towards New Housing Developments', Housing, Theory and Society, pp. 1-19. D.O.I.: 10.1080/14036096.2014.947173

Read, B.L. (2014) Theoretical approaches to neighbourhood governance: searching for lost treasure and comparative frameworks, in N.-M. Yip (ed.), Neighbourhood Governance in Urban China, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp. 25-39.

Read, B.L. (2012) Roots of the State:Neighborhood Organization and Social Networks in Beijing and Taipei, Stanford University Press, Redwood City, CA.

Sturzaker, J. (2011a) 'Can community empowerment reduce opposition to housing? Evidence from rural England', Planning Practice and Research, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 555-570.

Sturzaker, J. (2011b) 'Resistance to reform – from spatial planning to localism', Town and Country Planning, vol. 80, no. 7, pp. 318-321.

Sturzaker, J. (2015) 'Neighbourhood Governance in Urban China (Book Review)', Town Planning Review, vol. 86, no. 1, p. TBC.

Yip, N.-M. (2014) Introduction: neighbourhood governance in context, in N.-M. Yip (ed.), Neighbourhood Governance in Urban China, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp. 1-21.

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