Fostering Talent in Urban China: Building Cities and Developing the Nation

Dr Lisa Hoffman, University of Washington Tacoma

04.Nov.2010 16.00 - 17.30
G41, Baines Wing - Leeds


This presentation will examine the contemporary emphasis on developing talented human resources in China and how this process is linked with city-building practices.

The fostering of talent (rencai) is a national project of human capital development that produces new subject forms as well as urban landscapes. College graduates, for instance, no longer receive job assignments but instead write resumes, participate in face-to-face interviews, and work to develop themselves and their careers. Self-enterprising professionals have emerged in the process.

Concomitantly, cities must attract investments and find more entrepreneurial ways to develop, leading to particular kinds of urban spaces. City-making and subject-making are linked, in other words, through rationalities of enterprise and contemporary practices of "choice."

Additionally, the emphasis on development – of the self, of the city, of the nation – connects these processes in interesting ways. In particular, self-development through one's career may also simultaneously help the city and the nation prosper, leading to what is termed "patriotic professionalism." This presentation thus also examines the theoretical implications of the wedding of market-based/advanced liberal mechanisms of governing with longer-term politics of nation-building through labor.


Dr Lisa Hoffman is Associate Professor and Interim Director of Urban Studies at University of Washington Tacoma and has a PhD in cultural anthropology. Her research interests include new forms of governing, subject formation, and urban transformation in contemporary China. Hoffman's current research focuses on volunteerism, philanthropy and corporate responsibility in urban China, and her book, Patriotic Professionalism in Urban China: Fostering Talent, was published in 2010 by Temple University Press.

This presentation is part of the Worldwide Universities Network Contemporary China Center (WUN CCC) virtual seminars series, which this year focuses on:

  • China's Changing Urbanities
  • China Business: Green Opportunities
  • Class and Class Consciousness in China

The series allows audiences around the world to hear from leading scholars in contemporary China studies and to engage in dialogue with one another across geographic boundaries. Each seminar includes an interactive question and answer session across all sites.

If you wish to attend the lecture from a WUN member university other than Leeds, please consult your local WUN coordinator for details of where the seminar is being held.

For further information about the series and access to archived video recordings of previous years' seminars, please visit

General information on WUN seminars at Leeds can be found at

All welcome!