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Xuefei Ren - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Xuefei Ren

Associate Professor | Michigan State University


An expert in the politics of urban development, globalization, social change, art and cultural industries






Ren, Xuefei - Land, Housing, Air: Deciphering Urban Governance in China and India



An expert in the politics of urban development, globalization, social change, art and cultural industries, and international urban architecture. Current research focuses on urban China.

Areas of Expertise (3)

International Architecture


Urban Development

Accomplishments (3)

Outstanding Academic Titles Award for Urban China (Polity, 2013), by Choice magazine. (professional)


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship - American Council of Learned Societies (professional)


Senior Principle Investigator, Project: Detroit in China: Postindustrial cities and urban representations in the Midwest and China , funded by the Humanities Without Walls consortium. (professional)


Education (3)

The University of Chicago: Ph.D., Sociology 2007

Tokyo Metropolitan University: M.A., Urban Planning 2001

Jilin University: B.A., Comparative Literature 1997

News (1)

COVID-19 lockdowns ripple across China — ‘I wonder how long I can hang on’

The Wall Street Journal  online


For more than a year, residents living in a remote border town in China have endured lockdown after lockdown to shield the rest of the country from the spread of COVID-19. China has adopted stricter control measures than practically any other country. “A system like China’s, built around control with both local and nationwide surveillance mechanisms, can be very effective in a crisis, as evidenced by the relatively low level of public grumbling and continued compliance with controls,” said Xuefei Ren, a sociologist at Michigan State University. However, the human impact of a tightly controlled border shouldn’t be discounted. “With a closed door to the country, people-to-people exchanges have been disrupted. The loss is immeasurable,” Ren said.

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Journal Articles (3)

Governing the informal: Housing policies over informal settlements in China, India, and Brazil

Housing Policy Debate - Routledge

Xuefei Ren

2018 Informal settlements in cities in the global South have been increasingly targeted for redevelopment led by public–private coalitions, especially if they are in central locations. Previous scholarship often characterizes housing policies targeting informal settlements as examples of entrepreneurial governance geared toward recapturing land value by private and public elites. This understanding, however, glosses over the disparate policy choices that local governments use to address informal settlements...

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Aspirational urbanism from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro: Olympic cities in the Global South and contradictions

Journal of Urban Affairs

Xuefei Ren

2017 The critical geography scholarship on mega-events mostly adopts the framework of accumulation by dispossession, highlighting the disruptive legacies such as displacement and gentrification wrought upon host cities. Though the critique is largely correct, it has failed to capture the complex layers of historical and institutional contexts that underlie urban social change in mega-event cities. This article makes a case for broadening our analytical perspective by introducing the concept of aspirational urbanism, which refers to the diverse practices and discourses launched by state and business elites in an attempt to remake their cities bourgeois and world-class...

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15 Lost in Translation: Names, Meanings, and Development Strategies of Beijing’s Periphery

What's in a Name?: Talking about Urban Peripheries

Xuefei Ren

2017 The train northbound from downtown Chicago snakes along the lakefront as it passes by one predominantly white middle-class suburb after another–from Evanston and Wilmette to Glencoe and Lake Forest. Trains heading south pierce another stretch of residential suburbs–this one less well known and more racially mixed–Kensington, Riverdale, Harvey, and Matteson. The demographic landscape in America's suburbs has changed radically since the 1950s (Jackson, 1985; Keil, 2013), but the “suburban” label itself seems to be still useful, as both experts and non-experts routinely use it to describe low-density and automobile-dependent residential settlements developed outside the central city...

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