(Post-)Neoliberal Planning, Excessively Optimistic Developers and Overbuilding in Post-reform China: A Case Study of Ordos City
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Overbuilding has been a nationwide and detrimental phenomenon in 21st century China, which calls for investigations of its causes and solutions. Using a case study research strategy, and employing semi-structured interviews and document analysis as research methods, this dissertation explores the causes of and the solutions carried out for overbuilding in Ordos City, China. Employing an integrated conceptual framework that comprises (post-)neoliberal planning and developers’ excessive optimism, this dissertation probes the role of planning and developers’ excessively optimistic real estate development behaviors in shaping overbuilding, as well as the local government’s solutions to overbuilding in Ordos City. This dissertation follows an article-based format, and the findings are presented in three empirical article-based chapters. The first article applies the concept of neoliberal planning to explore the interactions between planning, especially master plan adjustments, and overbuilding in Ordos City. The results show that Ordos City’s master plans have been deregulated and adjusted to facilitate and cater to, rather than to contain and regulate, the frenetic real estate development since the early 2000s, which eventually led to overbuilding and a collapsed real estate market. The findings display a dynamic and mutually reinforcing mechanism between neoliberal planning and the real estate boom in Ordos. Moreover, overbuilding has in turn nurtured a more rational and socio-environmentally inclusive mode of planning in Ordos City. This article also reveals the legal and institutional instabilities of China’s master plans and suggests a transformation toward a more socio-environmentally inclusive approach to planning, with conscientious governance to ensure sustainability. This article adds insights to the underexplored, evolving interactions between neoliberal planning and development reality in the existing neoliberal planning literature, and it also contributes to neoliberal planning studies under authoritarian regimes. It argues that strong state capacity can function as a double-edged sword for promoting/tackling neoliberal planning. Finally, more theoretical and empirical inquiries are desired to explore neoliberal planning in China. By employing a behavioral approach, the second article explores the effect of developers’ excessive optimism on the formation of overbuilding in Ordos City. It finds that excessive optimism, manifested by the firm yet unjustified belief that the local real estate market would keep flourishing for many more years, was widespread among developers who produced unsold and/or unfinished new residential projects in Ordos. It also reveals the crucial roles of the pro-growth local government, the booming real estate market, and the easy availability of credit in reinforcing developers’ excessive optimism in Ordos. This study contributes to the sparse literature on developers’ excessive optimism, and verifies the validity and necessity of adopting a behavioral approach to interpret China’s overbuilding. It calls for more theoretical and empirical inquiries into the underexplored scholarship at the intersection of behavioral science and real estate development in China. Based on the conceptual framework of neoliberal and post-neoliberal governance, the third article explores the changing real estate financial governance under the real estate boom-bust cycle in Ordos City. It finds that Ordos City’s neoliberal real estate financial governance, featuring excessive deregulation, active public–private partnerships, market-friendly and growth-chasing institutional restructuring, land financialization, and enthusiastic state investment, has significantly contributed to the city’s real estate boom and overbuilding. In Ordos City’s post-bubble period, although preferential financial policies and deregulation persist, neoliberal financial governance has been largely curbed through reinforced governance and enhanced welfare and redistributive policy efforts such as the Housing Exchange Program. This article reiterates the essence of China’s neoliberal governance and verifies the existence of neoliberal governance in Ordos City. It also showcases the resilience of neoliberal local planning strategies in China. Nevertheless, the post-neoliberal endeavors in Ordos City, characterized by reinforced welfare and redistributive measures, and timely and effective state intervention via rigorous governance and enhanced public ownership of real estate assets for redistribution, add critical insights to the global intellectual and practical quests for post-neoliberal possibilities. As a whole, this dissertation discovers that Ordos City’s overbuilding is co-shaped by the state and non-state actors. It shows the effectiveness of employing an integrated framework of (post-)neoliberal planning and the behavioral perspective to interpret Ordos’s overbuilding phenomenon, which has implications for deciphering overbuilding in other parts of China. It argues that more precise understandings of state planning and non-state actors’ behaviors and their interactions can help promote the genuine comprehension of overbuilding and real estate development in general, which is crucial for fostering sustainable real estate development. Finally, this study calls for combined efforts of sustainable and accountable policy initiatives, effective policy implementation, rigorous governance, and a mindset of sustainability for all societal members to combat neoliberalism and overbuilding, and to promote sustainable real estate development.
Cite this version of the work
Xing Su (2021). (Post-)Neoliberal Planning, Excessively Optimistic Developers and Overbuilding in Post-reform China: A Case Study of Ordos City. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16991