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Thames Town, an English Cliché

The Urban Production and Social Construction of a District Featuring Western-style Architecture in Shanghai
Carine Henriot and Martin Minost
Translated by Elizabeth Guill
p. 79-86


This article contributes to the development of a reading grid for the globalisation of urban models and their hybrid forms through an analysis of the urban production and social construction of a district in the suburbs of an emerging Chinese metropolis based on a casestudy of Thames Town, located in the new city of Songjiang, to the south-west of Shanghai. First, this contribution gives an account of the circulation of internationalised urban planning models and practices and the local development of public-private growth coalitions, that is to say, the establishment of new configurations of players promoting “urban marketing” both at the level of the Shanghai Municipality and that of the District of Songjiang. Secondly, this urban creation with its borrowed architectural forms raises questions with regard to both its morphology and its social reception/construction. The “Town on the Thames” presents a meticulous English-style layout that crystallises the tensions encountered in Chinese urban peripheries: gated communities, the staging of Western architectural styles and their appropriation by the inhabitants, the identity enhancement they represent, and over and above this, relationship of the self to others and of others to the self. What do these districts with their Western-style architecture teach us about the way Shanghai, a metropolis that wishes to transmit its own model of Chinese urban planning, thinks, produces, and appropriates the Chinese city?

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Bibliographical reference

Carine Henriot and Martin Minost, « Thames Town, an English Cliché », China Perspectives, 2017/1 | 2017, 79-86.

Electronic reference

Carine Henriot and Martin Minost, « Thames Town, an English Cliché », China Perspectives [Online], 2017/1 | 2017, Online since 01 March 2018, connection on 20 June 2018. URL :

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About the authors

Carine Henriot

Carine Henriot is an Associate Professor in urban and spatial planning at the University of Technology of Compiègne; Member of EA 7284 Avenues; Associate researcher at UMR 8586 Prodig (

Martin Minost

Martin Minost is a PhD candidate in social anthropology and ethnology at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS, Paris); Reasearch Centre on Modern and Contemporary China (CECMC – UMR 8173) (

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