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1. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Qingyuan, from Suzhou, a historic city on the Chinese east coast. I have been studying planning in the UK since 2019. I first started my bachelor’s in Liverpool. I’m now studying in the MPhil/PhD program in Regional and Urban Planning Studies at LSE. I’m very interested in the development of planner’s professional ethics, and my research is on the identity and professionalism of planners.

2. Why did you choose to study planning in the UK?

I have to admit that, at the beginning, one of the key reasons for choosing the UK was that I did not have much information about other countries since I am the first generation in my family who have the opportunity to have overseas experience. My mum’s recommendation was very important to me at that time. As a lecturer in architecture, she told me that many famous first-generation planners in the People’s Republic of China had a UK background, and the University of Liverpool had started the first planning course in the world. So, in pursuit of my dreams of making cities better, I began my journey in Liverpool and later continued my studies in London.

3. How does the planning system/practices in the UK differ from China? Any lessons learnt for the UK? 

The UK’s discretionary planning system I believe differs from most countries in this aspect. There are some very interesting differences from the system in China. 

Regarding practice, in China, due to its ongoing development, there are more opportunities for planners to engage in some new town planning and mega-infrastructure projects. Regarding the system, unlike the UK, where public sector planners typically operate directly within local authorities, in China, planners often function within quasi-governmental institutes that serve multiple authorities, with local planning inspectorates operating within the local authorities themselves.

I think it is great that in the UK, there has been a transformation of planning from more engineering and architecture-based practice to one with a stronger emphasis on social and economic factors. Making and managing plans that are responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people should indeed be the overarching goal for every planner.

4. What challenges did you encounter when you first started to study and live in the UK? How did you overcome them?

Language and cultural differences were an issue at the beginning. It is obvious that the East-Asian planner community in the UK is fairly small. Despite my embrace of multiculturalism, there were moments of melancholy stemming from a sense of not having many peers of the same ethnicity. Nevertheless, as time passed, I gradually adapted.

For my planning study specifically, planning is a social practice rather than a hard technique. It needs an understanding of the society and institutions, and it was very difficult for me to understand planning only through taking courses. I think the key is to take more time to both study and experience the wider social environment, as well as to talk to planners who work in the industry.

5.  Can you name one of your favourite places/developments in the UK that reflects East Asian heritage? And why? 

There are many different ethnicities and cultures in East Asia and within my limited knowledge, I cannot come up with a place that can properly represent its entirety. However, as a Chinese, I love Liverpool’s Chinatown. It’s the first Chinatown in Europe, which has embedded centuries of collective memory of Chinese immigrants, and it’s the first place I arrived outside my home

country. It’s felt like the history is resonating.

6. What challenges did you encounter to secure an internship, a placement or other working experiences? How did you overcome them?

I haven’t had any working experience in the UK yet, so I might not be able to answer how to overcome the challenges. However, I think it’s always good to network with other planners. They are all very kind and always happy to help. I appreciate the BAME Planner Network. 


Celebrating East and South East Asian Heritage Month

Qing-yuan Guo

Research Student

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