Participatory governance in China: ‘Informal public participation’ through neighbourhood mobilisation

Liu Cao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Public participation is an emergent feature of urban governance in Nanjing, China. Though introduced to address social conflicts around urban redevelopment, the fact is that government-led public participation did not successfully soothe tensions, but resistance instead played a role like ‘public participation’ which influenced the governing processes. This Chinese case thus requires us to rethink the limitations of Western governance theories in explaining this Chinese story. With the purpose to research urban political studies beyond the West to have more plural and heterodox voices to depict a diversity of urban knowledge, this paper focuses on this heterodox phenomenon in China to understand how Chinese insurgent urbanism reconfigured and made a new form of urban governance. Through critical investigation of public participation in Nanjing, this paper argues that public participation is the buffer that mediates and ‘repairs’ the inconsistencies between different levels of governmental agencies, while also because of this disjointed and stratified administrative feature, resisting by appropriating government policies thus can influence the governing processes and become a way of ‘informal public participation’. By introducing the concept of ‘informal public participation’, this paper’s research findings shed light on governance studies about how participatory governance is made through both governmental approaches and bottom-up insurgent urbanism, and also illustrates how resistance can reshuffle power dominance in urban politics to make a new form of urban governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1693-1710
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese urbanism
  • public participation
  • rightful resistance
  • urban governance
  • urban politics


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