Policy Capacity for Urban Village Redevelopment in China: A Two-Case Case Study


  • Chunyu Shi Professor, Zhejiang Gongshang University, School of Public Management, Hangzhou Hangzhou 310018, China
  • Liao LIAO Associate Professor, South China Normal University, School of Politics and Public Administration, University City, No. 378, Waihuan West Road, Panyu District, 510006, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8434-7401
  • Yujie He Graduate Student, Zhejiang Gongshang University, School of Public Management, Department of Social Work, Hangzhou 310018, China
  • Qianying Zhang Senior Engineer, Guangzhou Urban Planning and Design Company Limited, Guangzhou 510230, China




policy capacity ; urban village redevelopment ; governance mode ;path dependence ;China


Policy capacity is described as a determinant for effective policy implementation. Its contents vary according to modes of governance. Based on available academic studies, grey literature, and semi-structured interviews, this study empirically explores how urban village redevelopment has been carried out in two cities, Hangzhou and Guangzhou, through the lens of policy capacity. By contrasting policy outcomes and the manifestation of policy capacity at different levels in these two cities, we develop three arguments that contribute to our understanding of urban renewal and policy capacity. Firstly, the performance of any policy action is affected by the capacity of the central actor to develop and implement policies. Secondly, understanding the interactive logical between analytical, operational, and political capacities under different governance modes is the key to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of policy capacity in a specific sector. Shaped by local contexts and past experience, local governments are predisposed to path dependence in developing and deploying policy capacity in urban village redevelopment. Thirdly, the capabilities and resources needed to support policies are largely determined by policy problematization at the analytical level: the technique-based approach of policy capacity theory needs to complete the missing link between policy framing and ethical issues.


Amore, A., Hall, C. M., & Jenkins, J. (2017). They never said 'Come here and let's talk about it': Exclusion and non-decision-making in the rebuild of Christchurch, New Zealand. Local Econ, 32(7), 617-639.

Atkinson, R., Tallon, A., & Williams, D. (2019). Governing urban regeneration in the UK: A case of 'variegated neoliberalism' in action?. European Planning Studies, 27(6), 1083-1106.

Bacchi, C. (2015). The turn to problematization: Political implications of contrasting interpretive and poststructural adaptations. Open Journal of Political Science, 5, 1-12.

Bacchi, C. (2016). Problematizations in health policy: Questioning how "problems" are constituted in policies. SAGE Open, 6(2), 1-16.

Bali, A. S., & Ramesh, M. (2018). Policy capacity: A design perspective, In I. Mukherjee & M. Howlett (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Policy Design (pp. 331-344). New York, NY: Routledge.

Black, K. (2010). Business statistics: Contemporary decision making (6th ed). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Boisseuil, C. (2019). Governing ambiguity and implementing cross-sectoral programmes: Urban regeneration for social mix in Paris. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 34, 425-440.

Bottero, M., Mondini, G., & Datola, G. (2017). Decision-making tools for urban regeneration processes: from stakeholders analysis to stated preference methods. TeMA Journal of Land Use, Mobility and Environment, 10(2), 193-212.

Brenton, S., Baekkeskov, E., & Hannah, A. (2023). Policy capacity: Evolving theory and missing links. Policy Studies, 44(3), 297-315.

Buckingham, W., & Chan, K. W. (2018). One city, two systems: Chengzhongcun in China's urban system. Journal of Contemporary China, 27(112), 584-595.

Butler, T. (1997). Gentrification and the Middle Classes. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Capano, G., & Lippi, A. (2017). How policy instruments are chosen: Patterns of decisionmakers' choices, Policy Sciences, 50(2), 269-293.

Chenboonthai, H., & Watanabe, T. (2018). Organizational and systemic policy capacity of government organizations involved in energy-from-waste (EFW) development in Thailand. Energies, 11(10), 2501. doi: 10.3390/en11102501

Denis, J. L., Usher, S., & Préval, J. (2022). Health reforms and policy capacity: The Canadian experience. Policy and Society, 42(1), 64-89. doi: 10.1093/polsoc/puac010

Foldvary, F. (2008). The marginalists who con-fronted land. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 67(1), 89-117.

Gen, S., & Wright, A. C. (2015). Policy capacity is necessary but not sufficient: Comment on "Health reform requires policy capacity". International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 4(12), 837-839. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2015.145

Gjaltema, J., Biesbroek, R., & Termeer, K. (2020). From government to governance…to meta-governance: A systematic literature review. Public Management Review, 22(12), 1760-1780.

Guo, Y., Xiao, Y., & Yuan, Q. (2017). The redevelopment of peri-urban villages in the context of path-dependent land institution change and its impact on Chinese inclusive urbanization: The case of Nanhai, China. Cities, 60, 466-475.

He, S., & Lin, G. C. (2015). Producing and consuming China's new urban space: State, market and society. Urban Studies, 52(15), 2757-2773.

Hendriks, F. (2014). Understanding good urban governance: Essentials, shifts, and values. Urban Affairs Review, 50(4), 553-576.

Howlett, M. (2004). Beyond good and evil in policy implementation: Instrument mixes, implementation styles, and second generation theories of policy instrument choice. Policy and Society, 23(2), 1-19. doi: 10.1016/j.polsoc.2004.03.003

Howlett, M., & Ramesh, M. (2016). Achilles' heels of governance: Critical capacity deficits and their role in governance failures. Regulation & Governance, 10(4), 301-313.

Jiang, Y., Mohabir, N., Ma, R., Wu, L., & Chen, M. (2020). Whose village? Stakeholder interests in the urban renewal of Hubei old village in Shenzhen. Land Use Policy, 91. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.104411

Kaika, M., & Ruggiero L. (2016). Land financialization as a 'lived' process: The transformation of Milan's Bicocca by Pirelli. European Urban and Regional Studies, 23(1), 3-22.

Lai, Y., Wang, J., & Lok, W. (2017). Redefining property rights over collective land in the urban redevelopment of Shenzhen, China. Land Use Policy, 69, 485-493.

Li, L., Lin, J., Li, X., & Wu, F. (2014). Redevelopment of urban village in China—A step towards an effective urban policy? A case study of Liede village in Guangzhou. Habitat International, 43, 299-308.

Li, H. (2023). Introduction to the research of marginalization of agricultural land. Beijing, China: China Social Sciences Press.

Li, X., Kleinhans, R., & van Ham, M. (2018). Shantytown redevelopment projects: State-led redevelopment of declining neighbourhoods under market transition in Shenyang, China. Cities, 73, 106-116.

Li, Z., Xun, L., & Lei, W. (2014). Speculative urbanism and the making of university towns in China: A case of Guangzhou University Town. Habitat International, 44, 422-431. doi: 10.1016/j.habitatint.2014.07.009

Liao, L., Zhang, C., & Feng, J. (2019). The involvement of planners in community planning: A promising model for Chinese local governance?. China Perspectives, (3), 55-61.

Lin, Y., Hao, P., & Geertman, S. (2015). A conceptual framework on modes of governance for the regeneration of Chinese 'villages in the city'. Urban Studies, 52, 1774-1790.

Liu, G., Chen, S., & Gu, J. (2019). Urban renewal simulation with spatial, economic and policy dynamics: The rent-gap theory-based model and case study of Chongqing. Land Use Policy, 86, 238-252.

Liu, L., & Xu, Z. (2018). Collaborative governance: A potential approach to preventing violent demolition in China. Cities, 79, 26-36.

Logan, J. R., Whaley, R. B., & Crowder, K. (1997). The character and consequences of growth regimes. Urban Affairs Review, 32(5), 603-630.

Molotch, H. (1976). The city as a growth machine: Toward a political economy of place. American Journal of Sociology, 309-332.

Mukherjee, I., Coban, M. K., & Bali, A. S. (2021). Policy capacities and effective policy design: A review, Policy Sciences, 54(4), 243-268. doi: 10.1007/s11077-021-09420-8

Nasution, M. S., Rahmat, A. F., Handoko, T., Rahmanto, R., & Mayarni, M. (2023). Post-COVID tourism recovery strategy for tourism villages: Multi-stakeholder participatory approaches. Journal of Contemporary Governance and Public Policy, 4(2), 131-148.

Peters, B. G. (2015). Policy capacity in public administration. Policy and Society, 34(3-4), 219-228.

Rhodes, M. L., & Murray, J. (2007). Collaborative decision making in urban regeneration: A complex adaptive systems perspective. International Public Management Journal, 10(1), 79-101.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2012). Research methods for business students (6th ed). London, UK: Pearson Education Limited.

Sharma, S. E. (2021). Down and out in Dhaka: Understanding land financialization and displacement in austerity urbanism. Urban Geography, 42(5), 681-700.

Slater, T. (2017). Planetary rent gaps. Antipode, 49, 114-137.

Smith, N. (1996). Of rent gaps and radical idealism: A reply to Steven Bourassa. Urban Studies, 33(7), 1199-1203.

Tasan-Kok, T., Van den Hurk, M., Özogul, S., & Bittencourt, S. (2019). Changing public accountability mechanisms in the governance of Dutch urban regeneration. European Planning Studies, 27(6), 1107-1128.

Tenbensel, T., & Silwal, R. P. (2022). Cultivating health policy capacity through network governance in New Zealand: Learning from divergent stories of policy implementation, Policy and Society, 1-15. doi: 10.1093/polsoc/puab020

Tong, D., Chu, J., Han, Q., & Liu, X. (2022). How land finance drives urban expansion under fiscal pressure: Evidence from Chinese cities. Land, 11, 253.

Wang, L. (2010). The approach of urban village redevelopment in Hangzhou. Policy Perspectives, 3, 43-45.

Wong, T. C., & Liu, R. (2017). Developmental urbanism, city image branding and the "right to the city" in transitional China. Urban Policy and Research, 35(2), 210-223. doi: 10.1080/08111146.2016.1224552

Woo, J. J. (2020). Policy capacity and Singapore's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Policy and Society, 39(3), 371-388. doi: 10.1080/14494035.2020.1750841

Wu, F. (2016). State dominance in urban redevelopment: Beyond gentrification in urban China. Urban Affairs Review, 52(5), 631-658.

Wu, F., Pan, F., & Chen, J. (2022). Financialization under state entrepreneurialism in China. Regional Studies, 56(8), 1237-1243.

Wu, X., Ramesh, M., & Howlett, M. (2015). Policy capacity: A conceptual framework for understanding policy competences and capabilities. Policy and Society, 34(3-4), 165-171.

Xie, F., Liu, G., & Zhuang, T. (2021). A comprehensive review of urban regeneration governance for developing appropriate governance arrangements. Land, 10, 545.

Xu, Z., & Lin, G. (2019). Participatory urban redevelopment in Chinese cities amid accelerated urbanization: Symbolic urban governance in globalizing Shanghai. Journal of Urban Affairs, 41(6), 756-775.

Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research design and methods (5th ed). Wallsend, UK: Sage.

Zhang, Z., Pan, J., & Qian, Y. (2023). Collaborative governance for participatory regeneration practices in old residential communities within the Chinese context: Cases from Beijing. Land, 12(7), 1427.