Theses Master's

Community building and building the community: a case study of the bottom-up community development in Shanghai, China

Zhu, Ruiqi

This paper examines the concept and dynamics of community building (Shequ Yingzao), an emerging trend in urban development in China that emphasizes community-based design and bottom-up processes. The case study of Xinhua Community in Shanghai serves as the focal point of this investigation. By analyzing Shanghai's recently developed policy framework supporting community building city-wide and the practices implemented by the local non-profit organization Big Fish Community Building Center (Dayu Yingzao) in Xinhua, this study explores the crucial role of community-based organizations in promoting participatory design, complementing top-down urban planning, facilitating urban regeneration, and fostering grassroots governance, community autonomy, and local democracy in the context of Shanghai.

Through qualitative research, this study evaluates the case of Xinhua Community’s community building, aiming to identify both the potential and challenges of autonomy-based community development and design in China. The findings indicate that the presence of the local community building organization and the policy support from Shanghai’s municipality played decisive roles in Xinhua’s community building. Xinhua's community building has made significant strides in recent years but it still grapples with issues related to ambiguous property rights, social disconnection, government dominance, and incomplete community autonomy.

The dependence on administrative power and fluctuating political interests underscores the importance of cultivating a more self-sufficient and resilient community building process. Nevertheless, community building activities in Xinhua significantly accumulate social capital in the community, which suggests prospects for further improvement. This study contributes to a more profound understanding of community building processes and their implications for urban development, governance, community autonomy, and local democracy, both in China and beyond.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Slater, Thomas S. J.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 19, 2023