The increasing financialization of China’s urbanization

Thierry THEURILLAT, James Hans LENZER JR, Hongyu ZHAN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides a heuristic framework to address issues about China’s ongoing urbanization in relation to the role of land and built environment as triggers for economic growth and to the increasing financialization of urban production. While a dominant field of literature highlights the interrelation between land and capital within a specific institutional setting between Central and local governments, it argues to include other key linkages between infrastructures, property development and finance to understand China’s recent exponential urban growth. It first places the current consequent local governments’ debt into perspective along with the evolution of financial circuits for urban infrastructures resulting from Central Government policy and regulation changes. Next, and in line with the real estate literature that highlights the key role of demand, it develops an original understanding of the financialization of urban production from the perspective of China’s property industry. Besides the role of homeownership policies since 1998 which boosted urban production based on use value, various ways of the transformation of property into financial assets have occurred. Chinese households as the main investors have not only been able to directly invest in housing and in non-housing by purchasing flats or commercial property but indirectly by increasing investments in special purpose vehicles such as trust-bank and funds finance and new kinds of investment platforms. In both cases, Central Government macropolicies, both stimulating and restricting from 2008–2016, have gone in hand with increasing financialization processes for local governments’ debt, urban infrastructure financing and real estate. Copyright © 2016 Institute of International Relations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1640002
JournalIssues & Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Theurillat, T., Lenzer Jr, J. H., & Zhan, H. (2016, December). The increasing financialization of China’s urbanization. Issues & Studies, 52(4), Article 1640002. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from


  • Financialization
  • Land-driven urban growth
  • Local governments’ debt
  • Local financing platforms
  • Property development
  • China


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