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Xiaobo Su

Xiaobo Su profile picture
  • Title: Professor
  • Phone: 541-346-4568
  • Office: 175 Condon Hall
  • Affiliated Departments: Asian Studies
  • Interests: Tourism and cultural politics, transnational regionalization, China and Myanmar


My research focuses on China’s transformation from a planned economy to a market economy after 1978. To understand the transformation, I examine issues of regulation, commodification, and development, and address what has happened on the ground and how individuals’ everyday life has been shaped by China’s political and economic transformation. In particular, I investigate urban and regional development and how two particular strategies of development—heritage tourism and transnational regionalization—transform material and vernacular landscapes. Material landscapes include buildings and streetscapes, while vernacular landscapes entail expressions of everyday life through music, dance, costume, religion, and daily routine activities.

Following Antonio Gramsci and Henri Lefebvre, I deploy the approach of political economy—as well as related literatures in cultural geography—to analyze China’s transformation. The approach of political economy seeks to unravel the antagonistic forces and social relations which foster and are encompassed within economic development. My research follows three tracks: tourism and the cultural politics of place in Lijiang, China; urban development and the commodification of urban heritage; and state rescaling and Yunnan’s regional development.

I would like to work with graduate students who focus on any of the following research topics. Please feel free to contact me if you have any question. 

1. Cross-border trade and border cities;

2. Transnational Narcotics Control and Development Intervention;

3. Urban Entrepreneurialism and Tourism Development;

4. Tourism Migrant Entrepreneurs and Social Responsibility;

5. China and its overseas development assistance



Su, Xiaobo and Teo, Peggy (2009) The Politics of Heritage Tourism in China: A View from Lijiang. London and New York: Routledge. ix+208 pp.

Major Peer-reviewed Articles in English

1.       Cai, Xiaomei and Su, Xiaobo (accepted) Dwelling-in-Traveling: Western Expats and the Making of Temporary Home in Guangzhou, China, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

2.       Su, Xiaobo and Cai, Xiaomei (in press) Spaces of Compromise: Border Control and the Limited Inclusion of Burmese Migrants in China, Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

3.       Su, Xiaobo and Lim, Kean Fan (2019) Opium substitution, reciprocal Control and the tensions of geoeconomic integration in the China-Myanmar Border, Environment and Planning A, 51(8): 1665-1683.

4.       Zhong, Yun; Su, Xiaobo (2019) Spatial Selectivity and Intercity Cooperation between Guangdong and Hong Kong, Urban Studies. 56(14): 3011-3023. 

5.       Su, Xiaobo; Cai, Xiaomei and Liu, Meixin (2019) Prostitution, Variegated Homes, and the Practice of Unhomely Life in China, Social and Cultural Geography, 20(3): 407-426.

6.       Su, Xiaobo (2018) Geopolitical Imagination and the U.S. War on Drugs against China, Territory, Politics, Governance. DOI: 10.1080/21622671.2018.1554503.

7.       Su, Xiaobo (2018) Fragmented sovereignty and the geopolitics of illicit drugs in northern Burma, Political Geography, 63:20-30. 

8.       Su, Xiaobo and Chen, Zhigang (2017) Embeddedness and Migrant Tourism Entrepreneurs: A Polanyian Perspective, Environment and Planning A, 49(3): 652-669.

9.       Su, Xiaobo (2016) Repositioning Yunnan: security and China’s geoeconomic engagement with MyanmarArea Development and Policy, 1 (2): 178-194.

10.    Su, Xiaobo (2016) Development Intervention and Transnational Narcotics Control in Northern Myanmar, Geoforum, 68:10-20. 

11.    Su, Xiaobo (2015) Nontraditional Security and China’s Transnational Narcotics Control in Northern Laos and Myanmar, Political Geography, 48: 72-82. 

12.    Su, Xiaobo (2015) Urban Entrepreneurialism and the Commodification of Heritage in China, Urban Studies, 52: 2874-2889. 

13.    Su, Xiaobo (2014) Multiscalar Regionalization, Network Connections, and the Development of Yunnan Province, China, Regional Studies, 48(1):91-104.

14.    Su, Xiaobo (2014) Tourism, modernity, and the consumption of home in China, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 39(1): 50-61.

15.    Su, Xiaobo; Wang, Hua and Wen, Tong (2013) Profit, responsibility, and the moral economy of tourism, Annals of Tourism Research, 43: 231-250.

16.    Su, Xiaobo (2013) Moving to peripheral China: Home, play, and the politics of built heritage, The China Journal, 70: 148-162. 

17.    Su, Xiaobo (2013) From frontier to bridgehead: Cross-border regions and the experience of Yunnan, China, International Journal of Regional and Urban Research, 37(4): 1213-1232.

18.    Su, Xiaobo (2012) Transnational regionalization and the rescaling of the Chinese state, Environment and Planning A, 44: 1327-1347.

19.    Su, Xiaobo (2012) Rescaling the Chinese state and regionalization in the Greater Mekong Subregion, Review of International Political Economy, 19(3): 501-527.

20.    Su, Xiaobo (2012) “It is my home. I will die here”: Tourism development and the politics of place in Lijiang, China, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 94(1): 31-45.

21.    Su, Xiaobo (2011) Heritage production and urban locational policy in Lijiang, China, International Journal of Regional and Urban Research, 35(6): 1118-1132. 

22.    Su, Xiaobo (2011) Commodification and the selling of ethnic music to tourists. Geoforum, 42:496-505.

23.    Su, Xiaobo (2011) Revolution and reform: The role of ideology and hegemony in Chinese politics, Journal of Contemporary China, 20(69): 307-326. 

24.    Su, Xiaobo (2010) The imagination of place and tourism consumption: A case study of Lijiang Ancient Town, China, Tourism Geographies, 12: 412-434. 

25.    Su, Xiaobo (2010) Urban conservation in Lijiang, China: Power structure and funding systems, Cities, 27: 164-171. 

26.    Su, Xiaobo and Teo, P. (2008) Tourism politics in Lijiang, China: an analysis of state and local interactions in tourism development, Tourism Geographies, 10(2): 150-168.


Updated on 16 March 2020


I will teach following courses in 2019-2020

Fall 2019

  • Geog4/548: Tourism and Development
  • Geog142: Introduction to Human Geography

Spring 2020

  • Geog 142: Introduction to Human Geography
  • Geog 5/410: Economic Geography