AccScience Publishing / JCAU / Volume 4 / Issue 2 / DOI: 10.36922/jcau.v4i2.161
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Chinese Exceptionalism in Architecture and Urban Design: A Book Review

Kachun Alex Wong1*
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1 John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A1, Canada
Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism 2022, 4(2), 161
Submitted: 22 July 2022 | Accepted: 13 October 2022 | Published: 20 October 2022
© 2022 by the Author(s). This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution -Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC-by the license) ( )

This essay reviews three books on contemporary Chinese urbanism. The first book, Designing Reform, understands the exceptionalism of Chinese reform through architectural evidence. The second book, The Shenzhen Experiment, further argues for the exceptionalism and non-replicability of Shenzhen reform. The third book, The City After Chinese New Towns, similarly highlights the unprecedentedness of Chinese new towns. These three recent publications collectively aim to demystify contemporary Chinese urbanism, and have done so with a sensibility towards space, geography, materiality, and infrastructure. These authors and editors are mainly architectural researchers leveraging disciplinary contributions to the discussion of post-socialist China. In turn, they have also contributed to the field of architecture and urban design with rich case studies in China. This review essay aims to understand (i) their geographical and spatial perspectives, (ii) their architectural design perspectives, and (iii) how they address social justice issues. It seeks to formulate contemporary Chinese urbanization as an object of inquiry, to “exceptionalize” Chinese phenomena, and to argue for the pedagogical contribution of Chinese case studies to architecture and urban design.

Chinese new town
reform and opening-up
political economy

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Conflict of interest
No conflict of interest was reported by the author.
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Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism, Electronic ISSN: 2717-5626 Published by AccScience Publishing