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Journal Article / Climate

State Restructuring and Subnational Innovation Spaces across Chinese Prefectures

Author(s): FRATTINI Federico, NICOLLI Francesco, PRODI Giorgio

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ABSTRACT

This paper maps the emergence of ‘subnational innovation spaces’ in China as they result from the interaction between state restructuring and the diffusion of innovative activities. Several countervailing forces have played a part in outlining a number of supra-urban regions that diverge by their own capability to develop and govern innovation-related socio-economic processes. On the one hand, the downscaling of state power enables the local administrative units to plan place-based strategies to embed technological upgrading, such as driving indigenous innovative activities to cluster around industrial and technological parks. On the other hand, this clustering entails reconfiguring socio-spatial interactions, while experiencing new networked connections to be governed. Thus, technological upgrading and state restructuring are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. Following this perspective, the authors have rearranged various data sets at the prefectural level and processed them to disentangle some of the main underlying processes: first, the distribution of innovation-related ‘infrastructures’ across cities; second, the evolution of innovative activities; third, the transition towards a firm-centred Science and Technology system. These factors have been then combined together with neighbourhood relations to outline different subnational innovation spaces. The result is a country-wide map describing how the geography of innovative activities in China exhibits features that are connected to the long-term processes of transition, industrialisation and state restructuring. This picture suggests that the catching up with ‘upgraded development’ in laggard regions could be further promoted identifying ‘up-scaled’ regional hubs to coordinate the development of wider areas.