Scalar politics and the planning of high-speed rail stations in Wuhan, China
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2023-03-16.
© 2020 Yuelong Yang
High-speed rail (HSR) stations are nodes and places that involve multi-sector and multi-scalar decision-making in their planning and development. Nevertheless, the current literature has focused much on the inter-sector interplays but is lopsided by a lack of understanding of the multi-scalar interactions. It leaves several theoretical gaps in the study of scalar politics and empirical gaps in interrogating how scalar politics have unfolded around HSR station planning and development. A scale-sensitive analytical framework and empirical evidence are needed to develop a ‘balanced theorisation’ of the interlocking relationships between HSR station area planning, development and the scalar structure as well as the inter-scalar interactions. This research seeks to address the theoretical and empirical research gaps by exploring the multi-scalar decision-making in the planning and development of HSR stations in China, where the relationships between multilevel governments have been transformed profoundly and the HSR network has been built rapidly. The thesis uses a scale-sensitive framework to investigate inter-scalar interactions among multilevel governments and authorities, especially concerning the strategies and policies crossing the rigid and inherited territorial scale of governments. Three inter-related questions are in focus: (a) what kinds of institutional/policy settings are responsible for the complicated relationships alternating between confliction and cooperation among the various stakeholders in decision-making associated with HSR station planning and development? (b) how do stakeholders manage their resources, opportunities, and interests for cooperation with and competition against each other in the multi-scalar setting? (c) what planning outcomes are observed, and to what extent have the inter-scalar interactions impacted the existing scalar structure? The research is conducted in the context of metropolitan Wuhan, where rapid changes in the urban built-up area, metropolitan boundary, government jurisdictions and responsibilities are prominent. Three HSR stations in Wuhan are used as case studies to probe into the decision-making processes. Conceptually, the research draws on insights from the existing literature about HSR planning, multi-level governance and scalar theories in planning, including indigenous Chinese governance concepts to which many Western ideas about scale are applied. The analyses focused on both primary and secondary information, including face-to-face interview data gathered from key informants selected from multilevel governments, planning institutions, universities, and the private sector, field reconnaissance data (observation notes and field photographs), planning and policy documents, minutes of meetings, maps, published works, and press articles. The research findings reveal that the planning and development of the three case study HSR stations are products of scalar politics centred on Wuhan. The scalar structure does not only define the scalar division of resources, responsibilities and power among multi-scalar actors but also raises different expectations towards the station projects. Multi-scalar actors deploy different strategies (competition, cooperation, or inactions) to effectively manipulate the discursive and material dimensions of scale in pursuit of their place-dependent interests. The interactions and inactions between them finally lead to the planning and development outcomes (i.e., site selection, land use planning and transport connections). The fast-evolving nature of the scalar structure in the HSR planning regime results in both inter-scalar tensions and cooperation opportunities between stakeholders in the multi-scalar context. Not only the tensions but also the shared interests between them can lead to inter-scalar interactions, which shape the planning and development outcome and further trigger scalar restructuring. Unlike the intensive interplay that unfolded between multi-scalar governments in site selection where overlaps of institutional responsibilities exist, the governments chose not to engage with each other in the integrated development proposal but cooperated in intraurban transport connections. The out-of-date institutions, or the lack thereof, combined with the lack of appropriate incentives, hampered the implementation of integrated station area planning and development. Strong government hands at multiple scales have shaped HSR station area planning and development in China. In contrast, the absence of non-state sector participation, including that from the civil society, in station site selection and station area development, is remarkable. The de facto roles of government agencies played out, in reality, may not accord with the de jure roles defined by their institutional mandate. It is not only because of the outdated institutions (or the lack thereof) but also the institutional overlaps between multi-scalar actors. Within the state sector, the reshuffle of responsibilities, power and resources among institutions at different scales of government over the past couple of decades has provided opportunities for negotiated arrangements either to complement or to replace legalistic, hierarchical institutional relationships. However, the inertia of sectoral behaviour to protect their own interests undermines those integration opportunities.
KeywordsHigh-speed rail; Station area planning; Station site selection; Scalar politics; Multi-scalar decision making; Urban development; China
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