From Fragmentation to Integration

Experiences from China Multi-plan Integration Program

Congratulations to Min Cai on successfully defending her PhD dissertation, “From Fragmentation to Integration: Experiences from China Multi-Plan Integration Program”, in April. Her research sheds light on spatial planning projects and explores under what conditions integration can be achieved more successfully.

An interdisciplinary background

Min has a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture, from which she studied spatial planning from a design perspective. She also holds a master’s degree in Ecology, specializing in natural resource management and addressing environmental pollution in nature reserves.

Fieldwork in mountainous areas deepened her understanding of forests, wildlife, and ecosystems. She identified the conflicts among ecotourism impacts, conservation needs, and local and governmental efforts. This experience underscored the importance of balancing development and protection, and motivated her to pursue further research, leading to her doctoral project.

Effective pathways for integration in spatial planning

People walking in Shanghai, China
Iewek Gnos on Unsplash

Spatial planning aims to balance social, economic, cultural, and environmental dimensions through territorial strategies. However, different actors manage various land uses with their own policies and interests, leading to fragmentation. Integration is considered a potential solution for countering fragmentation. 

Min’s research developed a theoretical framework and applied a mixed-method approach, combining desk research, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), and comparative studies, with China Multi-Plan Integration (MPI) Projects as the cases. 

One of the main findings highlights two pathways towards integration: one combination is structure, communication, and authority strategies; the other combination is clan culture, process management, structure, and communication strategies. These two paths are equivalent. Applying either of the two paths benefits integration. Local governments can choose any of the combinations with tailored strategies that suit their social, ecological, economic, political, and cultural features and their ambition regarding integration, balanced resource allocation, and sustainable development. 

This research enhances existing knowledge on integration in both spatial planning and public administration fields, by exploring the combined effects of strategies on integration. It also provides practical insights for planning projects by identifying factors that facilitate or inhibit integration.

Perks of being a PhD student at IHS

Min Cai with peers at her PhD defense

Min believes being part of a multicultural environment at IHS has exposed her to diverse perspectives and methodologies, enriching her research with a broader understanding of planning practices and urban studies from different regions. This international setting also improved her interpersonal skills and cultural sensitivity while collaborating with peers worldwide.

“The international atmosphere played a significant role in both my academic and personal growth during my PhD.”

Additionally, Min noted that the PhD programme at IHS provided a flexible and supportive environment, which allowed her to tailor the research to her interests and goals, while her supervisors provided strong support and the freedom to explore various topics and methodologies. As a result, she could integrate diverse methodologies and perspectives into her work, fostering a more holistic understanding of her research topic.

“My advice for future PhD students is to find their passion for their research topic, learn effective time management, and seek a supportive network of supervisors, peers, and friends.”

Min believes that pursuing a PhD holds immense academic and personal value.

"Academically, the programme offered me an opportunity to learn from professionals in my field and to delve deeply into a specific area of interest, contributing original knowledge to the discipline. I learned a great deal from my supervisors, particularly in terms of critical thinking, analytical skills, and problem-solving abilities. Personally, the PhD journey fostered my growth and resilience. It taught me perseverance, self-discipline, and the ability to manage complex projects independently. The challenges I encountered and overcame during the PhD programme helped me build confidence and made me stronger."

More information

The PhD in Urban Development & Governance is a 4-year flexible trajectory programme that fuses urban management with governance. Find out more about the programme here.

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes