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Prof. Dr. Elena Meyer-Clement

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Ostasiatisches Seminar / Institut für Chinastudien


Fabeckstr. 23-25
Raum 1.1111
14195 Berlin


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Co-director of Graduate School of East Asian Studies (GEAS).


Junior professor of Chinese Economy and Society, Freie Universität Berlin

Faculty at Graduate School of East Asian Studies (GEAS)

5/2010-4/2015 Postdoctoral research fellow, research network “Governance in China” funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Tübingen

Project title: Transformation of the Chinese Countryside: Local Cadres’ Urbanization Strategies

1/2013 Doctoral degree in Chinese Studies (summa cum laude), University of Tübingen

Title of dissertation: Party Hegemony and Entrepreneurial Power. Institutional Change in the Chinese Film and Music Industries

2/2011-4/2012 Maternity leave
4/2008-3/2010 Post-graduate scholarship, Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation
11/2003-4/2010 Research assistant, Chair of Greater China Studies (Prof. Gunter Schubert), Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Tübingen
8/2003 Magister Artium, Chinese Studies and Political Science (very good), University of Hamburg

Title of MA thesis: The Opening of the CCP for Private Entrepreneurs. Adaptation of the Party Organization to the Economic Modernization Process

10/1995-8/2003 Studies at the University of Hamburg (Chinese Studies, political science and philosophy)
7/1996-6/1997 Advanced Chinese language studies at Nanjing University, Jiangsu, PR China


Association of Asian Studies (AAS)

German Association of Asian Studies (DGA)

Association for Social Science Research on China (ASC) within the DGA

European Association of Chinese Studies (EACS)

Research interests:

  • Urbanization and the transformation of rural China
  • Local governance and central-local relations in the PRC
  • Land politics
  • The political role of private entrepreneurs in the Chinese party-state
  • The political economy of popular culture and propaganda


Current research project:

„Steering Urban-Rural Integration: Administrative Reconfiguration for a Unified Citizenship

A research project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Duration: 2018-2022

Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Elena Meyer-Clement (Freie Universität Berlin) and Dr. René Trappel (University of Freiburg)

Doctoral researcher: Xiang Wang (Freie Universität Berlin)

Description: This project investigates the steering capacity and governability of the Chinese political system with regard to the reforms that are aimed at achieving the "integrated development of urban and rural areas", or in short, "urban-rural integration". The project focuses on the following set of policy issues that are at the core of these reforms: the reforms of China's dual land system; the reorganization of agriculture; the overall coordination of urban development; and the social, economic and political integration of migrants in the cities. It argues that these reforms represent a shift in the center's reform strategy towards completely dismantling the structural duality of China's administration that evolved in the early years of the People's Republic, and that such restructuring has radical implications for central-local and state-society relations. In-depth analysis of the making and implementation of these reforms shall not only provide us with insights into one of the most critical parts of the recent reform agenda, but also improve our understanding of the Chinese political system's capacity to conduct such systemic transformations.

Project blog: https://userblogs.fu-berlin.de/urban_rural_integration

Previous research projects:

“Transformation of the Chinese Countryside: Local Cadres’ Urbanization Strategies” (2010-2015)

Postdoctoral research project, research network “Governance in China”, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), sub-project: “Local Cadres as Strategic Groups – analysis in multiple policy fields” (jointly led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Heberer, University of Duisburg-Essen, and Prof. Dr. Gunter Schubert, University of Tübingen).

The project analyses the strategic action of leading local cadres in the administrative and social organisation of in situ urbanisation processes in rural and semi-urban areas. Fieldwork for this project was conducted in September 2012, March 2013 and March 2014 in Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Jiangxi provinces. Marked differences were observed in the extent to which local cadres are able to steer the urbanization process in their localities and adapt the relevant policies to local conditions and population demands. These differences result in different modes of in situ urbanization in rural China, ranging from highly decentralized forms of rural urbanization to city-centred urban expansionism.


“Party Hegemony and Entrepreneurial Power. Institutional Change in the Chinese Film and Music Industries” (2005-2012)

Dissertation project, University of Tübingen (supervisors: Prof. Dr. Gunter Schubert and Prof. Dr. Thomas Heberer), supported by a short-term scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and by a post-graduate scholarship of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation.

The project explores the adaptability of the Chinese party-state’s institutions of control over the cultural and media sectors to processes of marketization and commercialization during the reform period since 1978. Its case studies are taken from the film and the music industries. Special attention is given to the role of private production companies as intermediaries between artistic creation, political and ideological constraints imposed by the state, and the market. The historical institutionalist approach traces crucial institutions of administrative, economic, political and ideological control over the two sectors back to the 1950s, and in some cases even beyond, and shows how and why private economic actors during the 1980s and 1990s were better able to influence institutional change in the music industry than in the film industry. The analysis also reveals, however, that since 2003 the Communist regime has re-established its hegemonic position over both the film and music sectors despite their different institutional trajectories. One fascinating aspect of this process is the combination of market reforms with a revival of certain Communist institutions of the 1950s, allowing for ideological manipulation of production content and incorporating important actors from the cultural sector into the regime’s propaganda system.


Party Hegemony and Entrepreneurial Power in China: Institutional Change in the Film and Music Industries, London: Routledge, 2015. (Book review by Stanley Rosen, The China Quarterly, Vol. 225, March 2016, pp 269-271) (paperback edition, 2018)

Special Issues

“Special Issue on Rural Urbanization” (with Jesper Willaing Zeuthen), China Information, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2020


"China’s rural urbanization and the state: Putting the countryside first?" (with Jesper Willaing Zeuthen), China Information 2020, (DOI:10.1177%2F0920203X20923240)

"Rural urbanization under Xi Jinping: From rapid community building to steady urbanization?", China Information 2019, 1-21. (DOI:10.1177/0920203X19875931)

"'Revitalising' China's countryside - old wine in new bottles?", Rural 21, No.4, 2018. (https://www.rural21.com/english/current-issue/detail/article/revitalising-chinas-countryside-old-wine-in-new-bottles-00003060/)

“The Evolution of Chinese Film Policy: How to adapt an instrument for hegemonic rule to commercialisation”, International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2017, 415-432 (DOI:10.1080/10286632.2015.1068764)

“The Great Urban Leap? On the local political economy of rural urbanisation in China”, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, No. 1, 2016. (PDF file)

“Was ist neu an Chinas ‘neuartiger Urbanisierung? (What is new about China’s new-type urbanisation?)”, Background Papers des Kompetenznetzes „Regieren in China, No. 1, 2015

“Von der Kulturrevolution zur Kulturreform: Kontrolle des Kultursektors in der VR China am Beispiel von Film- und Musikwirtschaft (From the Cultural Revolution to Cultural Reform: Control of the Cultural Sector in the P. R. China)“, Background Papers des Kompetenznetzes „Regieren in China, No. 3, 2013

“Greater China – Idee. Konzept. Forschungsprogramm (Greater China – Idea, Concept, Research Programme)“ (with Gunter Schubert), Greater China Occasional Papers, No. 1, October 2004

“Research Note: Institutional Change Under the Impact of an Evolving Private Sector in the PRC – The Case of Opening the Party to Private Entrepreneurs”, Asien – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, No. 92 (July 2004), 64-80

Book chapters

"Global city competition and new hierarchies of urban citizenship in China’s migration regime” (with Xiang Wang), in: Gunter Schubert, Franziska Plümmer, and Anastasiya Bayok (eds.) Immigration Governance in East Asia: Norm Diffusion, Politics of Identity, Citizenship. London: Routledge, 2020, 67-90

“城镇化的大跃进?关于中国农村城镇化中的地方政治经济 (The Great Urban Leap? On the local political economy of rural urbanization in China)”, in: Yu, Keping, Alpermannn, Björn and Heberer, Thomas (eds.) 中共的治理与适 (Governance and Adaptation of the Chinese Communist Party: Comparative Perspectives), Beijing: 中央编译出版社 (Central Compilation and Translation Press), 2015, 182-213

Book reviews

“Social Mobilisation in Post-Industrial China. The Case of Rural Urbanisation” by Jia Gao and Yuanyuan Su, The China Journal, no. 84 (July) 2020, 147-149

"Book Review: China’s Unruly Journalists: How Committed Professionals Are Changing the People’s Republic" (by Jonathan Hassid), in: China Information, 31/2 (July 2017), 256-258

"The Transformation of Governance in Rural China" by An Chen, in: The China Quarterly, 226, 2016, 562-563 doi:10.1017/S0305741016000424

“Sarah Turner (ed.): Red Stamps and Gold Stars. Fieldwork Dilemmas in Upland Socialist Asia, Kopenhagen: NIAS Press, 2014”, in: Asien – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, No. 137 (October 2015), 119-120

Conference reports

"Workshop 'Urbanizing Rural China: Challenges of Rural Governance'", in: Asien – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, No. 147 (April 2018), 125-126.

“Gemeinsame Jahrestagung des Arbeitskreises Sozialwissenschaftliche Chinaforschung (ASC) in der DGA und des BMBF-Kompetenznetzes ‘Regieren in China’ (Joint International Conference of the research network "Governance in China" and the Association for Social Science Research on China)“, in: Asien – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, No. 126 (January 2013), 116-118

“China-Workshop ‘Iserlohn 2006’”, in: Asien – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, No. 100 (July 2006), 105-107

“Asien: Zum Wandel verdammt. Wege aus der Krise“ (Asia: doomed to change. Ways out of the crisis), in: Asien – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, No. 70 (January 1999), 63-67

Recent Media contributions

"Hongkongs Jugend will sich die Demokratie nicht nehmen lassen (Hong Kong's youth keep fighting for democracy)", interview, Nemetschek Stiftung, 2019

"Projekt Skynet. Wie China seine Bürger auf Schritt und Tritt verfolgt (Project Skynet. How China is observing its own citizens)", video interview, Handelsblatt, 28 August 2019

"Chinas patriotische Studierende in Deutschland (China's patriotic students in Germany)" by Johannes Simon, interview, Tagesspiegel, 22 May 2019

“Ist China die neue kulturelle Weltmacht? (Is China the new cultural superpower?)", discussion, Kulturradio rbb (Berlin cultural radio), 7 March 2017

Selected presentations and talks

March 2019

中国农村住房空间的转变 – 土地管理制度与地方政府战略 (The transformation of China‘s rural housing space – Land management institutions and local government strategies), Lecture at the Gansu University of Politics and Law

December 2018

(with René Trappel) "From 'New Socialist Countryside' to 'Rural Rejuvenation': What is new in rural China?", Annual meeting of the Arbeitskreis für sozialwissenschaftliche Chinaforschung (ASC), Göttingen

October 2018

(with Xiang Wang) "Political steering of urban and rural identities and Chinese citizenship: the evolution of China's migration regime", Einstein Workshop "East Asian Migration Governance in Comparative Perspective: Norm Diffusion, Politics of Identity, Citizenship", Berlin

July 2018

"The Sorcerer and the Apprentice: China's state capacity and the implementation of rural urbanization policies", GEAS Open Colloquium, Berlin

July 2018

"Chinas Politik der "neuartigen Urbanisierung": Ein neuer Ansatz für ländliche Entwicklung?" Konfuzius Institut, Berlin

March 2018

“Challenges of implementing sustainable urbanization in China”, FUB-PKU Workshop on Sustainable Development Goals, Beijing

February 2018  “Chinese Urbanization and New Central and Local Strategies in the Fight Over Rural Land”, Klitgaarden Workshop “Urbanizing Rural China: Challenges of Rural Governance”, Skagen, Denmark

October 2017

"What makes a Chinese citizen? A search for discursive linkages between internal and external migration in China", presented at the Einstein Workshop "Comparing Migration Management, International Law and Identity in East Asia", Berlin.

March 2017

“From Bad Land Grabs to Good Urbanization: Frames and Uncertainty in China’s Central-Local Relations”, presented at the panel “Envisioning a Future for the Countryside: Chinese and Japanese perspectives” at the Association of Asian Studies, Toronto.

September 2016

"Same same but different? Rural land market reforms under the constraints of local land management", Joint conference of the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) and the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, "Explaining transition of Chinese rural areas: A system perspective", Chengdu, China.

August 2016

"Institutional Appoaches to Urbanization in China", GEAS Summer School, Shanghai, China.

June 2015  

“Pekinger Film- und Musikproduzenten zwischen Zensur und Kommerz: Zur Rolle privater Unternehmer in der chinesischen Kulturpolitik (Beijing film and music producers between censorship and commerce: on the role of private entrepreneurs in Chinese cultural policy)”, Lecture series on Latest Cultural Policy Developments in East Asia, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Cologne.

November 2014 “Using the cities to encircle the countryside: Chinese urbanisation policy and local political change in rural China”, presented at the panel “Policy feedback and political change in the People’s Republic of China” at the Joint International Conference of the research network "Governance in China" and the Association for Social Science Research on China (ASC), Berlin.
September 2014 “The Evolution of Chinese Cultural Policy: How to adapt an instrument for hegemonic rule to commercialisation”, International Conference on Cultural Policy Research, Hildesheim.
March 2014 “The Great Urbanization Forward? On the political economy of rural urbanisation in China”, Joint International Conference of the “China Center for Global Governance and Development” and the research network “Governance in China”: "Governance, Adaptability and System Stability under Contemporary One-Party Rule: Comparative Perspectives", Nanchang (Jiangxi, PR China).
November 2013 “‘Urbanization with Chinese Characteristics‘ Revisited”, Joint International Conference of the research network "Governance in China" and the Association for Social Science Research on China (ASC), Vienna.
November 2010 “The Private Film and Music Industries and the Party-State in China: Institutional developments and political implications”, Joint International Conference of the research network "Governance in China" and the Association for Social Science Research on China (ASC), Würzburg.
November 2005 “Strategische Gruppen im Kontext institutionellen Wandels – Überlegungen zur politischen Verortung privaten Unternehmertums im chinesischen Parteistaat (Strategic Groups in the context of institutional change – Thoughts on the political positioning of private entrepreneurs in the Chinese party-state)“, Autumn conference of the Section Developmental Sociology and Social Anthropology in the German Society of Sociology, Essen.
January 2005 “Institutional Innovation and Change in Local Politics: The Case of the Private Sector“, Inaugural Graduate Seminar on China, No. 1, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China.
August 2004 “Party Reforms and Entrepreneurial Power – Institutional Change under the Impact of an Evolving Private-Sector in the People’s Republic of China”, XVth Biennial Conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies, Heidelberg.
May 2002 “Die Bedeutung der Rekrutierungspolitik der Kommunistischen Partei Chinas im wirtschaftlichen Modernisierungsprozess (The impact of the CCP’s recruiting policy in the economic reform process)“, 4th Brühl Conference of young East Asia experts.