USC Price School of Public Policy

Heikkila delivers keynote analyzing city plans at China planning conference

August 21, 2017


Professor Eric Heikkila (center) following his keynote address, stands with Price Ph.D. alumni who are now urban planning faculty at universities worldwide. From left: Qisheng Pan, Cathy Yang Liu, Lingqian Hu, Heikkila, Jiangping Zhou, Xueming Chen and Yiming Wang

By Matthew Kredell

USC Price School of Public Policy Professor Eric Heikkila helped add a different perspective to urban planning issues in China by giving the closing keynote address at the International Association of China Planning (IACP) annual conference in Harbin, a city in northeast China.

IACP is a global organization comprising more than 2,000 members and affiliates who address planning issues in China. Among them are faculty and students at universities around the world, including the U.S.; planners from international institutions, government agencies and consulting firms; as well as other interdisciplinary practitioners.

“This is a rather special organization because it provides an organic link between urban planning scholarship in the West and urban planning practice in China,” said Heikkila, director of USC Price’s Office of Global Engagement. “They are well connected in China to the planning profession at the highest levels. I felt honored and touched to be invited to give the keynote address.”

Heikkila spoke at the June conference about his research with Ying Xu, an associate professor of public administration at Hunan University in China, analyzing the five-year plans submitted by Chinese cities.

Using a keyword analysis of five-year plans for the 286 cities with at least a prefecture-level status, the researchers found that similarities in planning priorities among cities in one five-year plan does not lead to a greater likelihood of shared interests or priorities in the next period.

However, there is evidence to suggest that certain principal tasks – such as land use planning, economic development and urban management – do recur as enduring priorities from one five-year plan to the next.

The presentation was very well received, resulting in an invitation for Heikkila to contribute an editorial commentary on the topic for the Journal of Urban Management.

Legacy of scholarship

Heikkila is the third USC Price professor to speak at the conference, following Genevieve Giuliano and Peter Gordon.

Seven conference participants received their PhDs at USC Price and now serve as faculty around the world: Xueming Chen from Virginia Commonwealth University, Lingqian Hu from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cathy Yang Liu from Georgia State University, Qisheng Pan from Texas Southern University, Tieshan Sun from Peking University, Yiming Wang from the University of Bristol (U.K.) and Jiangping Zhou from the University of Hong Kong.

Lingqian and Yiming serve on IACP’s board of directors.

“We are very honored to have Professor Heikkila, a renowned expert on international planning, deliver a keynote speech at this year’s conference,” said Lingqian, who presented her own research on a case study of evolving urban spatial structure and commuting patterns in Beijing. “I am so proud to see the continuous presence of USC professors, which demonstrates IACP’s recognition of their contribution to China’s planning.”