Heritage, values and gentrification: the redevelopment of historic areas in China

Yujie Zhu, Plácido González Martínez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the impacts of heritage-led urban redevelopment on local communities and the associated consequences of gentrification. The instrumental role of cultural heritage in urban governance presents an underdeveloped research field on gentrification. Especially in fast-developing countries like China, redevelopment is often associated with urban beautification that favours the interests of the affluent middle classes while disregarding the needs of the urban poor and migrants. This paper uses Qujiang New District in Xi’an and Taipingqiao in Shanghai as cases for examining the impacts of heritage-led redevelopment on the urban landscape and social fabric of Chinese cities. Following a qualitative approach based on built environment analysis and observation, together with in-depth, semi-structured interviews, this study shows how cultural heritage becomes an effective tool for governance in the context of urban redevelopment. The values generated by cultural heritage and its associated ideas, including urban beautification, high culture and economic benefits, legitimise state-dominated spatial reconstruction and the resulting gentrification and social fragmentation. Heritage-led urban redevelopment in China produces new spaces for social interaction, where the state’s control over its citizens is reinforced. These spaces support investor and upper-high class interests of capital accumulation and leave limited room for the development of alternatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-494
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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