The China Symposium 2012 brought together 35 academics and professionals from China and Europe to present individual papers and take part in discussions, workshops and panel debates. The participants came from several disciplines, such as marketing, management, human geography, political science, communication, economic geography, tourism, sociology, urban planning and economic history. 8 Chinese and 10 European universities were represented at the symposium. Apart from scholars from the host universities, namely Stockholm University and Fudan University in Shanghai, symposium participants were from key universities in Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Lund, Uppsala, Copenhagen, London, Paris, etc. As a result, the symposium made a highly international and multidisciplinary event.
Interactivity and collaboration as a goal
The main purpose of the China Symposium was to increase collaboration and create long-term relations between universities and organisations in Europe and China, as well as to advance research within the growing field of city branding. This was realised by having a relatively small number of participants, which facilitated social interaction and created a collaborative and interactive environment. Similarly, by including participants from different disciplines, many perspectives on city branding were shared.
Exchange of knowledge and experiences
The primary focus of the symposium was the challenges, opportunities and possible consequences that Chinese mega-cities face in terms of their design and redesign in order to be competitive on the global market of cities. Since exchange of knowledge and experiences was an essential part of the symposium, emphasis was also placed on city branding in a Western context. There were three main symposium themes, namely, “City branding in East and West: Learning from each other”, “Governance, strategies and legitimacy” and “Chinese mega-cities in global competition”. Three research programmes were also presented.
Key issues discussed
The China Symposium was characterized by openness in the discussions, as well as a willingness among the participants to share their different viewpoints. The conference participants showed great awareness of the growth and increased importance of mega-cities, and argued that the large cities in China are the growth engines in China’s development and transition. It was also stated that the branding of Chinese mega-cities has become important process that is here to stay, and that Chinese mega-cities are aware of their position and image, in China and the world.
Issues that attracted special attention during the China Symposium were for example Chinese cities’ strategic use of land as an important explanatory factor in the urbanization process in China, and hence in the development of mega-cities. Discussed was also that Chinese cities are more strongly governed by politicians, compared with the West where citizens, companies and other organizations to a larger degree are involved in the city branding process. In China, the centrally developed policies (and e.g. the Five-year-plans) are important for and have impact on the development and branding of Chinese mega-cities. Another issue put forth was the increasing competition between mega-cities in China (inter-city competition). It was also emphasized that when the aim is to understand city branding in China, we should not just follow Western theory and literature, but understand China on its own terms.
Outcome and way forward
During the symposium there was much enthusiasm among the participants to have a follow-up symposium. Towards the end of the symposium it was consequently decided that there will be a China Symposium also next year, in the fall of 2013. Co-organizers will then be the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and Tsinghua University. Another outcome of the symposium was the establishment of a long-term agreement of cooperation between the National Academy of Economic Strategy (NAES) at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and Stockholm Programme of Place Branding (STOPP) at Stockholm University School of Business (SUSB). In addition, there are plans to publish a selection of the papers from the China Symposium in the form of an edited book.
The China Symposium 2012 was hosted by the Marketing Section at Stockholm University School of Business and the Forum for Asian Studies at Stockholm University, in collaboration with the School of Management and the Nordic Centre, at Fudan University in Shanghai.