City branding and industrial transformation from manufacturing to services: Which pathways do cities in Central China follow?

Meiling Han, WM (Martin) de Jong, Minghui Jiang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A potentially attractive way for cities to maintain economic growth while reducing environmental harm is to let their production structures undergo industrial transformation, a process otherwise known as ecological modernization. This attraction lies mainly in the fact that residents, visitors and corporations prefer clean air, water and soil as a milieu to invest their resources in. Municipal governments can use city branding as an important instrument to force off such a transformation, if it is taken as a point of departure for the adoption of a strategy to which they are deeply committed and for the benefit of which they are willing to deploy their various policy instruments. In the literature on ecological modernization, five different pathways for industrial transformation in cities have been identified and these have been matched with city branding practices. In this contribution, the abovementioned conceptual framework is further detailed and specified to account for a variety in types of secondary and tertiary sector industries. In the empirical sections, all cities in the Chinese provinces Hubei and Hunan, where the transition from manufacturing to services is typically most pressing, are examined in terms of their industrial structures, pathways to industrial transformation and city branding choices. The results indicate, inter alia, that further subdivision of the secondary and tertiary economic sectors is useful in understanding key features of the transformation, and that different sub-pathways affect tradeoffs between economic expansion and ecological preservation differently. Branding practices among Hubei and Hunan cities also indicate that some industries are more easily embraced and utilized than others in establishing brand identities and adopting popular city labels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5992
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been kindly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Grant No. 71774042; 71532004); the TU-Delft's Initiative for Mobility and Infrastructures (DIMI) and the Erasmus Initiative for the Dynamics of Inclusive prosperity. The Key Program, National Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71532004) will cover the costs for publishing in open access. The State Key Program of International Science and Technology Cooperation Foundation of China 'Key technologies and demonstrations of comprehensive research on urban energy systems and carbon emissions' (No 2017YFE0101700).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors.


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