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Title: The economic geography of urban water infrastructure investment and governance : a comparison of Beijing and London
Author: Yang, Yin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 4398
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Urban infrastructure is the key physical asset for successful functioning of modern cities. Yet the building and maintaining infrastructure networks require robust institutions, either expressed explicitly in rules and regulations or implicitly in social norms and mutual expectations, which are crucial for governing the complex relationships among all stakeholders including governments, regulators, investors, utilities and consumers that underpin the production of infrastructure services. Although there are more and more studies focusing on infrastructure, the underlying institutions that sustain the 'sink' of long-term accumulation of finance, technology, organisational and geopolitical power for shaping urban landscape have often been neglected. In particular, few studies have investigated the uneven geographical phenomenon of urban infrastructure investment and governance. As such, this thesis compares and explores how and why political, institutional and governance frameworks in Beijing and London influence urban water infrastructure investment and service delivery differently. The findings from the comparative study of the thesis should assist better understanding of 'variegated capitalism', especially state capitalism versus liberal capitalism. Through case study and close dialogue methodology, this thesis compares and investigates the investment models, governance frameworks, pricing systems and infrastructure contracts for urban water infrastructure in Beijing and London from the perspective of economic geography. Based on the theories of institutional and relational economic geography, this thesis organizes the study into four substantive chapters: Chapter Three compares the investment models employed in Beijing and London for water infrastructure investment and the underlying institutions; Chapter Four explores the effects of different governance frameworks on urban water infrastructure investment and service delivery in Beijing and London; Chapter Five investigates the effects of different pricing systems in the two cities for coordinating the intrinsic, market and investment value of urban water infrastructure; Chapter Six analyses different infrastructure contracts for financing large-scale water infrastructure projects in the two cities. The thesis finds that institutions are embedded in time and space for harnessing the flows of capital and producing the configurations of infrastructure provision, thus shaping the heterogeneous landscape of the material, economic, social and geopolitical fabric of contemporary cities. Therefore, in contrast to the statement 'form follows function', this thesis argues that infrastructure functions are inherently geographical in nature. The thesis has made the following contributions: firstly, it has compared the various trajectories of urban water infrastructure investment and governance in different political economic contexts, especially the dialogue between Global North and South, making original contribution in the 'geography of infrastructure'; secondly, the thesis employs cases studies to compare and investigate institutions empirically - issues that have been neglected for much too long in mainstream economic geography, contributing to 'variegated capitalism'; finally, in practical terms this research provides information for governments, regulators, investors, infrastructure providers and other stakeholders on in-depth understanding of urban water infrastructure investment and governance in different institutional and relational contexts.
Supervisor: Clark, Gordon L. Sponsor: China Scholarship Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economic geography ; Urbanization--Great Britain ; Urbanization--China ; Water utilities--Government policy--China ; Water utilities--Government policy--Great Britain ; Infrastructure (Economics)