China Planning Workshop

China Planning Workshop is a summer study abroad program organized by Professor Ming Zhang. The program aims to offer opportunities for UT Austin students to learn from experiencing China's urbanization dynamics and collaborating with their Chinese counterparts to explore rural and urban development issues and solutions. Each year, Professor Zhang collaborates with a Chinese university to select a client city where the planning workshop takes place. The selected client city is either revising its comprehensive plan or facing specific development/redevelopment challenges for which the city welcomes fresh ideas from domestic and international scholars, experts, and practitioners. Once the client city is identified, a team is then assembled consisting of faculty and students from SOA and the collaborating Chinese universities, along with invited experts in the locally needed fields.   

The workshops are joint efforts in multiple ways. First, it is a joint educational endeavor between UT CRP and Chinese universities. Faculty and students from both sides share course syllabi and work on the same set of tasks for the workshop projects. Each student team is formed during the workshop to include participants from UT Austin and Chinese universities. Second, the workshop participants come from multidisciplinary backgrounds, including planning, architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, public policy, and geography. By working in teams, the students learn from their peers of different backgrounds and experiment with diverse disciplinary approaches toward problem-solving. Third, the workshop is a joint effort between academia, local officials, and professionals. Aside from receiving logistical support (room & board and local transportation) from the client city, the UT/China participants have the opportunity to work shoulder-by-shoulder with local professionals in seeking desirable solutions to the city's problems.

From 2005 to 2019, Professor Zhang organized the China Planning Workshop 15 times with more than 130 students from UT Austin. From participating in the workshops, UT Austin students have gained insights into China's urbanization challenges and planning practices far beyond textbook descriptions. Organized or self-guided travel taken by the participants before, during, and after the workshops allowed them to explore China's natural and historic attractions and enjoy authentic Chinese food and cultural amenities. Other SOA faculty who contributed to and participated in the program over varying years include professors Kent Butler, Robert Paterson, Fritz Steiner, Wilfried Wang, Patricia Wilson, and Daniel Yang. The summer program will resume in 2023 when both countries lift all COVID-related travel restrictions.