Research Abstract

In the wake of a slowing Chinese economy, weighted down by sputtering contemporary models of urban real estate development, attention has shifted towards rural development – now becoming a common focus of both the public and private sectors. Public investment from governments and non-government institutes is pouring into rural China to alleviate poverty; simultaneously, private investors and philanthropies now see rural development as a potentially unlimited market for scalability and growth. However, this newfound interest is not merely a matter of financial speculation, there is palpable urgency for rural development to drive a more sustainable and stable socio-economic platform for the country.  Rural China is no longer just a propaganda piece, but indeed the critical challenge for both private and public sectors to face in the new era of developing China.

In the 13th Five Year Plan, target-measured poverty alleviation was proposed by the highest leadership in the Central Government to equalize developmental inequalities (which had accrued in the previous three decades of stratospheric growth), in hopes of achieving a “soft landing” for China’s economic. Private investments float quickly from property, to e-commerce, to food and community-making; if rural development cannot catch up to this speed, there will not be any room for further extension of the market.

Research Topics

Based on these emerging issues, we propose to turn away from the megacity developments in China, which has been well-documented, to the rural villages in the most remote, beautiful, opportunistic, but risky development sites. We are researching a more sustainable model of rural development in rural China, by investigating the following issues,

  1. Cases of rural development models
  2. Financial modelling of sustainable rural development
  3. Development strategies to work with local communities and production methods
  4. Social innovation to rural development
  5. Community making and value co-creation
  6. Rural development and rural infrastructure
  7. New participatory planning
  8. Datafication and internet technology infrastructure implementation

Research Program

Columbia University Studio X and Shanzhai City Farm Think program collaborate to develop a long term research project on future development model for rural China. Research Participants will join the research team composing with professors from Columbia University GSAPP and Shanzhai City’s experts of rural development in China. The program will start in May and hit key milestone in the beginning of August. During the program, participants might travel to specific sites for case study and research. After the program, participants will be able to keep working on the materials for potential publication.

Potential case studies include, social entrepreneurship and community making in village development, coop development, dafafication of rural and social development, alternative financing, etc.

Researchers will work together with Columbia University Professors and students in June in Shenzhen.


We are looking for eligible researcher to work in Shenzhen Future Plus Institute.

Working Schedule and Stipend:

  • 3-6 months research program
  • May to August or May to October
  • Full time: 3000rmb/month (before tax salary)
  • Only for Chinese citizens
  • Quota: 2-4


  • Participants currently at school or after graduation are all welcomed
  • Knowledge and experience in real estate, economics, anthropology, social entrepreneurship and management, computer programming, planning/urban design, architecture
  • Familiar with mainstream software for design, coding, data analysis based on participants’ background
  • Interest in rural development project


Interested participants please submit the following items to

Please indicate at subject of the email: "Application to Studio X Rural Development Research Program"

  • One page cover letter stating why you are interested in this program and relevant experience of you to this program
  • CV
  • Portfolio (optional, less than 5mb)
  • Submission deadline: 29th

Start date of participants will be considered for individual case. Research project will kick start in middle of May.

Collaborator Introduction

Studio X

studioStudio X is an academic think tank under Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in Columbia University.

Shanzhai City

szcShanzhai City is an impact analytics and social development project datafication company, based in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and San Francisco. We implement data collection and insight dashboard system for social development project, connect social intervention and social investors.

Future Plus Institute

futureFuture Plus Institute is a creative institute and think tank for design thinking based in Shenzhen. Future Plus organizes education and research program for design thinking, urban and social development, branding and innovative entrepreneurship.