Among known studies of city branding by Chinese megacities to realise urban transformation, there is no explorative study of how smaller Chinese cities engage in city branding and attempt to trigger industrial transformation. In response, this article presents an in-depth case study of city branding processes in a medium-sized Chinese city. Roles, resources and interactions among the city's stakeholders are analysed during the brand creation and implementation stages in two different economic city branding projects. The stakeholder involvement mechanisms we identify confirm that city branding creation in China primarily follows political rather than business channels. Chinese local public authorities and more specifically key politicians, departments, and public enterprises are core stakeholders in branding creation. However, this leads to challenges in the branding implementation, since key public sector players tend to withdraw themselves when implementation begins, leaving previously uninvolved private (and public) players to implement the brands. The unsuccessful transformation contrasts with those observed in Chinese megacities, where involvement of powerful corporations and support from higher levels of government are both much higher. It appears that the imperative of broad stakeholder involvement to make city branding successful as we know it for Western cities may also apply in medium-sized Chinese cities.
- Brand creation and implementation
- Economic city branding
- Industrial transformation
- Medium-sized city
- Stakeholder involvement