Mengyu Wu: “The Governance of Industrial Heritage-Led Regeneration: The Case of Chengdu, China”

In Students by General Account

While once viewed as a liability, industrial built heritage is increasingly valorised as an opportunity for urban regeneration. Yet, this positioning of heritage as a tool of economic boosterism often conflicts with traditional conservation concerns regarding aesthetics, historic importance and place quality. Indeed, significant risks can arise from tourism overconsumption and gentrification in historic centres, including the loss of historic fabric, population displacement and diminished local identity.  Despite such concerns, few have examined the governance of ‘heritage-led regeneration,’ or how industrial heritage becomes mobilised as part of economic and place-boosterism strategies. It is unclear how the State navigates between development and societal interests in heritage preservation, or how planning policy has enabled the commodification of industrial-heritage assets. Research overlooks how planning and conservation policies are being rewritten to facilitate heritage-led regeneration exercises, or how particular ‘growth coalitions’ have instrumentalised heritage within wider economic strategies. This lacuna is particularly evident within China’s unique state–market relations, where local government is not simply a market facilitator but is itself a development actor deploying market instruments to fulfil strategic objectives.   In response, this project examines the State’s role in facilitating heritage regeneration in Chengdu, China; a former industrial centre undergoing rapid economic change. Policymakers have emphasised the potential of the city’s industrial heritage to further develop its tourism economy, address environmental issues and market cultural assets. The project examines the positioning of industrial heritage as a regeneration tool, the liberalisation of planning policy to promote investment in historic cores and enable economic restructuring.