Shuwen Zhou


zhou shuwen pic








Shuwen Zhou

DPhil candidate, Sustainable Urban Development Programme, Continuing Education 



Shuwen is currently reading for a DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford. Her academic interest is in the intersection of urban development, technology and social justice. As a research method as well as a presentation approach, in 2021 she also began to make ethnographic documentaries.  

Before embarking on an academic journey, she worked as a project lead of the Poverty and Urbanisation Portfolio at the United Nations Development Programme in China, leading development strategic planning (ministerial/city/community level) and programme management. She also worked at the Asian Development Bank Institute (Tokyo), participated in community-led slum upgrading projects facilitated by Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) in Bangkok and Manila, and coordinated projects of community and gender development at China Association for NGOs Cooperation (CANGO).   

She received an MA in Public Policy from the University of Tokyo, and an MSc in Urban Development Planning from the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (UCL).

DPhil topic

Shuwen Zhou’s current research project investigates the role of urban planners in making smart cities in China. Smart urbanism as a new urban practice emerged in the early 2000s. At its early stage, IT corporations and states took the lead in many countries, as well as in China. In the western countries, some scholars began to call citizen participation and ‘right to the smart city’. In China, some big-data urban planners left state planning institutes and founded start-ups, openly advocating ‘people-centred smart city’. This research focuses on the ‘independent’ big-data urban planners and examines their role in making smart cities. It aims to understand the power relation in smart city making in China, and the ‘room of manoeuvre’ that planners can have in transforming the paradigm of elite-led smart urbanism.