Our everyday life has experienced digitalisation over the past few decades. In many countries, Covid-19 has accelerated the trend, and led to further development of smart cities across continents. In China, the boom of smart cities started in 2012, when the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development launched a nation-wide smart city pilot programme. Over 100 cities joined the pilot in the following years. Established literature has discussed the role of IT corporations, government or citizens in smart city development. A great body of literature has been critical of state and corporation-led smart urbanism, and called for a bigger role of citizen participation. However, little attention has been paid to the interrelation of actors in smart city practice in specific institutional contexts, especially at a neighbourhood level, which is crucial for developing strategies to transform the power relation. Shuwen Zhou’s research examines the relation of different actors in a ‘Street Brain’ project in Beijing. Placed in a Chinese context, it attempts to explore the ‘room for manoeuvre’ in transforming the power relation in smart city development.
Shuwen Zhou is an urban geographer, documentary maker, and former Project Lead of the Poverty and Urbanisation Portfolio at the United Nations Development Programme in China. She is currently pursuing a DPhil in the Sustainable Urban Development Programme, University of Oxford.