Reframe Urban Conservation Discourse via a lens of Stakeholder Involvement in China: Cases of Historic Urban Landscape

This research aims to (re)examine the relationship between urban conservation and public participation by investigating the process of involving stakeholders in conserving urban heritage sites in China. It responds to the need of developing a place-based, alternative understanding of participatory approaches in urban conservation, considering that underpinning theories of participatory urban conservation have been developed within the framework of western intellectual traditions, relying on democratic socio-political structures. Using discourse analysis, the research first explores how participatory approaches to heritage conservation have been fed into theoretical and public debates to guide the development of the urban conservation framework in China. Second, employing case studies, namely the conservation projects in Hongkou-Creek historic neighbourhoods and Kulangsu (Gulangyu) World Heritage Site, this research examines the societal and development uses of stakeholders’ participation in urban conservation through an inquiry of historic urban landscape (HUL) in China. Overall, this research contributes to the debate that aims to integrate public participation theories into urban conservation discourse, particularly in the context of sustainable development. Focusing on perspectives in China, a non-Western democratic context, this research also sheds light on exchanging and rebalancing knowledge that serves the purpose of addressing urban conservation issues. Of those issues, a particular focus is given to the strategy-making for developing urban heritage sites in which different participating groups experience unequal power relations in the conservation process