In May 2015, the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of the UK jointly issued the major project tender notice on ‘China‘s Urban Transformation.’ The Zhou Enlai School of Government at Nankai University, the Urban Studies Department and the Scottish Centre for China Research at University of Glasgow applied for the project with a proposal titled “The Re-Making of Chinese Urban Neighborhoods--Socio-Spatial Transformation and Access to Public Services.” After an independent appraisal by Chinese and British reviewers along with a joint panel discussion by NSFC and ESRC in August, the Nankai-Glasgow joint research team was granted funding in the amount of 2,500,000 RMB and over £750,000 for respective parties. British Chancellor George Osborn made the announcement during his visit to China in late September 2015. Meanwhile, detailed information was made public at the inauguration ceremony of Nankai-Glasgow Joint Graduate School on October 20, 2015.
Urban Transformation is a new international research topic. Since 2000, China’s urban population has increased from 460 million to 750 million; the number of cities with a population of over 1 million has grown from 90 to 142, and 6 mega-cities have the population more than ten million. The built-up areas of major cities have expanded almost 60%. At the same time, the rural-to-urban migration, along with the inter-urban migration, especially of recent university graduates, has led to the diversification of the socio-economic profile of Chinese cities. This in turn is creating a new kind of social stratification and spatial segregation within urban society.
The Nankai-Glasgow Project--The Re-making of Chinese Urban Neighborhoods, will examine the current urbanization process in China through the perspective of neighborhood dynamics in three different cities - Tianjin, which is near Beijing in the North China Plain; Hangzhou in the Yangtze River Delta; and Chengdu in the Sichuan Basin - each representing a fast-developing region in the country. In the coming three years from 2016 to 2018, a multi-disciplinary consortium of 16 academics from Zhou Enlai School of Government at Nankai University in China and Urban Studies and the Scottish Centre for China Research at the University of Glasgow in UK will work together. Their research will be based on a large sample survey and space visual statistical modeling, to systematically detect aspects such as: the evolution of space planning of sample cities and communities; the influence of the continued economic and social transformation on the class differentiation and the community heterogeneity. They will also study the inequality of public service, etc. The aim is to better understand the processes of social and spatial transformation, the impact on social and economic differentiation, and the implications for emerging inequalities of income and access of key public service resources. The research project will promote the development of Nankai-Glasgow Joint Graduate School, and enhance the capacity of carrying out the inter-disciplinary collaborative research of key projects between the two universities.