Human-centric vs. technology-centric approaches in a top-down smart city development regime : Evidence from 341 Chinese cities

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104271
Journal / PublicationCities
Online published11 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


With smart city (SMC) initiatives proliferating worldwide since the 2000s, the theoretical debates around SMC development have evolved from a technology-centric approach to a more human-centric approach. Investing in human capital and improving quality of life have become the major elements of SMC rhetoric. However, few studies have examined the approaches adopted in real-world SMC policymaking or why different cities follow different approaches. We statistically examine the factors behind the human-centricity of SMC policies through a text analysis of policy documents from 341 Chinese prefectural cities published between 2009 and 2020. We find divergent approaches to SMC development across these Chinese prefectural cities. Unexpectedly, the more economically developed and dense cities tend to be more technology-centric in SMC policymaking. Cities at the initial and advanced stages of SMC development also prefer a technology-centric approach, albeit with very different underlying mechanisms. These findings suggest the need for a greater prioritization of human capital in SMC creation in developed cities and for context-specific interpretations of technology-centricity for cities at different SMC development stages.

Research Area(s)

  • Smart city, Human-centric, Technology-centric, Text analysis, China