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The role of nation state in reconfiguring global production networks: state-led projects, scalar politics and grassroots agency (RDF23/GES/FU)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Wenying Fu  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The classical North-South spillover thesis no longer can account for the development dynamics across the globe, whereby the new millennium has witnessed the increasing rise of Neo-Techno-Nationalism (NTN) which is characterized by the nation state’s nationalistic ambitions to boost indigenous capabilities and to nurture leading position in key sectors. Unlike older forms of techno-nationalism, the strategy of the NTN paradigm often relies on new forms of public-private accommodation with state-owned corporations enter into strategic partnership with key foreign and domestic firms.

More prominently, economic statecraft interwine with active industrial policy domestically in shaping the global-local interactions, whereby global production networks in some sectors, especially those concerning national interests, is reconfigured with stronger participation and influence from the nation state.  This macro-level structural change has significant implications for the regional actors and grassroots communities whose businesses and livelihoods rely on different degrees and forms of integrating with the global production networks. On the one hand, the local governments and trade associations find it pressing to “detour” through the state structures and central agencies in their efforts to couple with global production networks (Fu and Lim, 2022). On the other hand, informal practices and networks (e.g., informal contracting practices, informal waste-recovered sector, informal labor practices, etc.) that have been sustaining the contested competitiveness of the bottom ends of the global production networks (Fu et al., 2013), have been exposed to more state regulations of formalization in an era marked by populist backlash against globalisation.

Overall, the emerging forms of state-market nexus have questioned the viability of neoliberal critique in the Southern context because the state has been growing it capacity in controlling capital to determine the ways of organizing economy – one that could conflict, overlap, or coalesce with the profit maximization rationale in the neoliberal governance (Fu, 2022). 

In view of these contexts and debates, this call seeks candidates who will advance theoretically-informed and empirically-intriguing projects that include, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • The role of nation state as a key site of critical analysis in terms of uneven development in globalisation
  • Sociospatial implications of state-led projects in strategic sectors, such as green energy, new electric vehicles, battery storage, artificial intelligience, etc.
  • Political economy and scalar politics of regions’ strategic coupling with the Global Production Networks (GPNs)
  • Developmental outcomes of production network reconfiguration for grassroots communities

The PhD candidate should engage with contemporary economic geographical debates and is expected to develop sophisticated and novel methodology, be it quantitative or qualitative, in the research project.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr. Wenying Fu. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see   

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career Development of Researchers.


Fu W., Lim KF. (2022). The constitutive role of state structures in strategic coupling: On the formation and evolution of Sino-German production networks in Jieyang, China. Economic Geography, 98(1): 25-48.
Fu, W., Revilla Diez, J., & Schiller, D. (2013). Interactive learning, informal networks and innovation: Evidence from electronics firm survey in the Pearl River Delta, China. Research Policy, 42(3): 635-646.
Fu W. (forthcoming, 2022). Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Who is forgotten? In: Johns J and Hall SM, ed. Contemporary Economic Geographies: Inspiring, Critical and Plural Perspectives. Bristol: Bristol University Press.

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