A Mega-event Approach to Glurbanization: Insights from Expo 2010, Shanghai


  • Lingyue LI College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University 1239 Siping Road, Shanghai, P.R. China




This paper contributes to an in-depth understanding of how the mega-event contributes glurbanization of entrepreneurial city through a case study of Expo 2010 in Shanghai. It argues that spatial-related transformation is central to mega-event approach to glurbanization yet the soft power building is uncertain. It implies that the domestic impacts of mega-events are likely to be more profound than their global influences. This corresponds to the capitalist transformation from Fordist-Keynesianism to neoliberalism, in which mega-events such as Olympic Games and World Exposition have increasingly been incorporated into urban development plan to boost urban agenda. Although the profile of world fairs is reduced and does not have the international impacts that they used to have, Shanghai Expo 2010, the first Expo ever held in a developing country, is pinned hope on as the “Turn to Save the World Expo” and is unusually ambitious to bring opportunities in urban transformation. With a well-developed framework of glurbanization entailed by entrepreneurial city, this research enriches glurbanization theory by a thorough examination of Shanghai Expo. It finds that Expo-led landscape reconfiguration, spatial restructuring, and new sources provision effectively transformed Shanghai, propelling glurbanization in diminutive spatial scale. Yet, it remains powerless to impress the world as the voice of domestic propaganda is limited in the Western mainstream media. In all, the Expo case well exemplifies the power of mega-event approach to advancing local agenda, especially in spatial transformation per se, as well as its constraints in (re)shaping a global discourse. 


Mega-events, Glurbanization, Expo 2010, Shanghai


[1] Makarychev, A.,A. Yatsyk. Brands, cities and (post-) politics: A comparative analysis of urban strategies for the Universiade 2013 and the World Football Cup 2018 in Russia[J]. European Urban and Regional Studies, 2015, 22(2): p. 143-160.

[2] Trubina, E. Manipulating neoliberal rhetoric: clientelism in the run-up to international summits in Russia[J]. European Urban and Regional Studies, 2015, 22(2): p. 128-142.

[3] Ribeiro, L.C.d.Q.,O.A.d. Santos Junior. Neoliberalization and mega-events: The transition of Rio de Janeiro’s hybrid urban order[J]. Journal of Urban Affairs, 2017, 39(7): p. 909-923.

[4] Müller, M.,J. Pickles. Global games, local rules: Mega-events in the post-socialist world[J]. European Urban and Regional Studies, 2015, 22(2): p. 121-127.

[5] Cope, B. Euro 2012 in Poland: recalibrations of statehood in Eastern Europe[J]. European Urban and Regional Studies, 2015, 22(2): p. 161-175.

[6] Matusitz, J. Glurbanization theory: An analysis of global cities[J]. International Review of Sociology, 2010, 20(1): p. 1-14.

[7] Matusitz, J. Collapsing the Global and the Local through Interscalar Strategies: A Glurbanization Perspective[J]. Planning Theory, 2010, 9(1): p. 6-27.

[8] Blunkett, D.,K. Jackson. Democracy in crisis: the town halls respond[M]. 1987, London.

[9] Rees, G.,J. Lambert. Cities in crisis[J]. Edward Arnold, London, 1985.

[10] Judd, D.,R.L. Ready. Entrepreneurial cities and the new politics of economic development[J]. Reagan and the cities, 1986: p. 209-247.

[11] Peterson, P.E. City limits[M]. 1981: University of Chicago Press.

[12] Harvey, D. From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: the transformation in urban governance in late capitalism[J]. Geografiska Annaler. Series B. Human Geography, 1989: p. 3-17.

[13] Gertler, M.S. The limits of flexibility: comments on the post-Fordist vision of production and its geography[J]. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 1988: p. 419-432.

[14] Sayer, A. Postfordism in question[J]. International journal of urban and regional research, 1989, 13(4): p. 666-695.

[15] Schoenberger, E. From Fordism to flexible accumulation: technology, competitive strategies, and international location[J]. Environment and Planning D abstract, 1988, 6(3): p. 245-262.

[16] Swyngedouw, E. The socio-spatial implications of innovations in industrial organisation[J]. Working Paper, Johns Hopkins European Center for Regional Planning and Research, 1986.

[17] Scott, A.J. New industrial spaces: Flexible production organization and regional development in North America and Western Europe[M]. 1988, London: Pion Ltd.

[18] Eisenschitz, A.,J. Gough. The politics of local economic policy: The problems and possibilities of local initiative[M]. 1993, Basingstoke: MacMillan.

[19] Noyelle, T.J. The economic transformation of American cities[M]. Vol. 19. 1984: Rowman & Littlefield Pub Incorporated.

[20] Hall, T.,P. Hubbard. The entrepreneurial city: new urban politics, new urban geographies?[J]. Progress in human geography, 1996, 20(2): p. 153-174.

[21] Jessop, B.,N.-L. Sum. An entrepreneurial city in action: Hong Kong's emerging strategies in and for (Inter) urban competition[J]. Urban Studies, 2000, 37(12): p. 2287-2313.

[22] Van Tulder, R.,W. Ruigrok, The logic of international restructuring. 1995, London: Routeledge.

[23] Swyngedouw, E., Neither global nor local:‘glocalization’and the politics of scale, in Spaces of globalization: Reasserting the power of the local, K. Cox, Editor. 1997, Guilford Press: New York. p. 137-166.

[24] Brenner, N. Globalisation as reterritorialisation: the re-scaling of urban governance in the European Union[J]. Urban studies, 1999, 36(3): p. 431-451.

[25] Brenner, N. Global cities, glocal states: global city formation and state territorial restructuring in contemporary Europe[J]. Review of International Political Economy, 1998, 5(1): p. 1-37.

[26] Wetzstein, S. Economic Competitiveness,‘Glurbanisation’and ‘Soft’Spatial Interventions: Insights from Four Australasian Cities[J]. Industrial transition. New global‐local patterns of production, work, and innovation, 2012: p. 213-232.

[27] Bercht, A.L. Glurbanization of the Chinese megacity Guangzhou–image-building and city development through entrepreneurial governance[J]. Geographica Helvetica, 2013, 68(2): p. 129-138.

[28] Hodson, M.,S. Marvin. Understanding the role of the national exemplar in constructing ‘strategic glurbanization’[J]. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 2007, 31(2): p. 303-325.

[29] Essex, S.,B. Chalkley. Mega-sporting events in urban and regional policy: a history of the Winter Olympics[J]. Planning Perspectives, 2004, 19(2): p. 201-204.

[30] Hubbard, P.,T. Hall, The entrepreneurial city and the new urban politics, in The Entrepreneurial City: Geographies of Politics, Regime and Representation, T. Hall and P. Hubbard, Editors. 1998, John Wiley & Sons: Chichester, UK.

[31] Swyngedouw, E., F. Moulaert, A. Rodriguez. Neoliberal Urbanization in Europe: Large–Scale Urban Development Projects and the New Urban Policy[J]. Antipode, 2002, 34(3): p. 542-577.

[32] Essex, S.,B. Chalkley. Urban development through hosting international events: a history of the Olympic Games[J]. Planning Perspectives, 1999, 14: p. 369-394.

[33] Essex, S.,B. Chalkley. Olympic Games: catalyst of urban change[J]. Leisure Studies, 1998, 17(3): p. 187-206.

[34] Harvey, D. From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism - the Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism[J]. Geografiska Annaler Series B-Human Geography, 1989, 71(1): p. 3-17.

[35] Deng, Y., S.W. Poon, E.H.W. Chan. Planning mega-event built legacies – A case of Expo 2010[J]. Habitat International, 2016, 53: p. 163-177.

[36] Carlsen, J.,A. Millan. The links between mega events and urban renewal: the case of the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games[J]. Journal of Sport Tourism, 2002, 7(3): p. 4-5.

[37] Carriere, J.-P.,C. Demaziere. Urban Planning and Flagship Development Projects: Lessons from EXPO 98, Lisbon[J]. Planning Practice & Research, 2002, 17(1): p. 69-79.

[38] Imrie, R., L. Lees, M. Raco. Regenerating London : governance, sustainability and community in a global city[M]. 2009, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge. xiii, 353 p.

[39] Yin, R.K. Case study research and applications: Design and methods[M]. 2017: Sage publications.

[40] Hall,C. Michael. Urban entrepreneurship, corporate interests and sports mega‐events: the thin policies of competitiveness within the hard outcomes of neoliberalism[J]. Sociological Review, 2006, 54(s2): p. 59-70.

[41] Hall, C.M. Hallmark tourist events : impacts, management, and planning[M]. 1992, London: Belhaven Press.

[42] Syme, G.J., B.J. Shaw, D.M. Fenton, W.S. Mueller. The Planning and evaluation of hallmark events[M]. 1989, England: Avebury ; Brookfield, Vt.

[43] Denzin, N.K.,Y.S. Lincoln. Handbook of qualitative research[M]. 1994, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

[44] Deng, Y. Conceptualizing mega-event flagships—A case study of China Pavilion of Expo 2010 Shanghai China[J]. Frontiers of Architectural Research, 2013, 2(1): p. 107-115.

[45] Chan, R.C.K.,L. Li. Entrepreneurial city and the restructuring of urban space in Shanghai Expo[J]. Urban Geography, 2017, 38(5): p. 666-686.

[46] Wu, F., J. Xu, A.G.-O. Yeh. Urban Development in Post-reform China: State, Market, and Space[M]. 2007, London; New York: Routledge.


How to Cite

LI, L. (2019). A Mega-event Approach to Glurbanization: Insights from Expo 2010, Shanghai. Journal of Geographical Research, 2(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.30564/jgr.v2i1.188


Article Type