Andrew Stokols is a researcher and writer focusing on China, Asia, the environmental and social consequences of urbanization, sustainable planning, and cultural preservation. In China, he has worked as a Princeton-in-Asia Fellow at a Beijing NGO and most recently, he was a Fulbright Scholar based in Xi'an. His work has been featured in The Atlantic and The New York Times.
From Harvard to Seoul

From Harvard to Seoul

BY ANDREW STOKOLS A renowned Harvard University professor of Chinese history ended his summer class at Kyung Hee University in an unlikely way: with an apology. “My generation has utterly failed to solve the world’s most pressing problems,” he said ominously. Then he closed on a more hopeful note: “This...
LGBT film explores coming out in China

LGBT film explores coming out in China

June 19,2014 Fan Popo Coming out to one’s family is a common rite of passage for gays and lesbians around the world. But China’s queer community faces unique challenges, including a one-child policy that puts pressure on sons or daughters to provide their parents with grandkids. With the nation’s rapid...
My Appearance at Cities for Tomorrow New York Times

My Appearance at Cities for Tomorrow New York Times

  On April 22 I was on a panel talking about China’s “ecocities” and China’s urban development in general, for the New York Times “Cities for Tomorrow” conference.  This discussion was moderated by New York Times DotEarth blogger and journalist Andrew Revkin, and included myself along with: Professor Karen Seto...
An Inside Look at China's Wild West

An Inside Look at China’s Wild West

  Vast expanses of sand dunes and mountains greeted me as I awoke aboard an overnight sleeper train from Lanzhou in neighboring Gansu province to Turfan. This was China’s far west: Xinjiang Province. A student on his way home from a city in the East was offering me green bean...
Why Chinese Cities Are Smaller Than They Appear

Why Chinese Cities Are Smaller Than They Appear

Focusing on total population—rather than the number of people actually residing in urban areas—obscures the extent of China’s urbanization challenge. ANDREW STOKOLS   NOV 22 2013, 12:06 PM ET Chongqing might be huge—but it’s not the biggest city in China, much less the world. (Wikimedia Commons) In 1997, the Chinese Communist...
How Maps Unlock the Mystery of Chinese Names

How Maps Unlock the Mystery of Chinese Names

By Andrew Stokols Recently, The Atlantic published a post about maps that I created via this website showing the geographic distribution of surnames in China.  While the maps were interesting, they also raised a few questions.  Why are some names prevalent in certain regions and not others?  And what do they tell us about the geographic...
The Environmental Downsides of Urbanizing Western China

The Environmental Downsides of Urbanizing Western China

  By: Andrew Stokols One of the goals of relocating Qinghai nomads and farmers to urban housing is to improve the environment and preserve local culture, but the effect is often the opposite. The changes in western China are transforming an entire cultural landscape (Image:marc bono) From the top of...
China's Urbanization: Is it Worth the Cost?

China’s Urbanization: Is it Worth the Cost?

China’s leaders believe urbanization is the key to growing consumer spending and by extension, the key to transforming China into a consumer-driven economy.  In order to continue moving China’s remaining 700+ million peasants to urban lifestyles, the central and provincial governments have been investing heavily in programs designed to relocate...
Xi'an's Urban Villages

Xi’an’s Urban Villages

While thought of as a southern China phenomenon, “urban villages” can be found in most Chinese cities, including Xi’an.  Enclaves of informality, urban villages are remnants of actual villages that were enveloped by urban expansion as cities moved outward into farms over the last 30 years of China’s rapid economic...
Beyond Terracotta: An Ancient Capital Attempts to Reinvent Itself as a Center for Creativity

Beyond Terracotta: An Ancient Capital Attempts to Reinvent Itself as a Center for Creativity

  Next to an abandoned factory on the outskirts of Xi’an, a giant ironclad bust resembling one of the city’s iconic terracotta warriors stands alone, albeit with a wooden beam through his head.  It’s one of the few signs that the run-down factory on the outskirts of Xi’an was once...
The Last Days of Bali Village 八里村最后的日子

The Last Days of Bali Village 八里村最后的日子

Entering Bali Village from the recently-opened subway station, I pass through a colorful Chinese-style arch that marks the village entrance into a small alley filled with vendors selling mala tang, massage parlors, and used book stores.  Turning down another alley even narrower, wedged between the 8-story blocks that have sprouted...
China by Street

China by Street

“Finally,within a huge and sombre mass of things, a blackened people, who live and die in silence.  Thousands of beings, who follow a fatal instinct, pursuing gold with good and evil means.”- Charles Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs de Mal) As Baudelaire described the masses of urban residents filling...
Anti-Japan Protests in Xi'an: Government Cracks Down

Anti-Japan Protests in Xi’an: Government Cracks Down

XI’AN – Protests against Japan’s recent efforts to buy the disputed Diaoyu islands spread to cities across China Saturday, and in some places turned violent.   Here in Xi’an, protesters marched to the city’s central intersection at the bell tower, and by the afternoon, a large crowd had begun to amass...
Will China Legalize Gay Marriage Before the U.S?

Will China Legalize Gay Marriage Before the U.S?

    What if I told you China could legalize same-sex marriage before the U.S. does? You’d probably call me crazy. As of now, you’d probably be right. Shanghai is far from being a gay-paradise on the level of Amsterdam or San Francisco. However, China’s LGBT community has made remarkable strides in recent...
China by Rail in the Year of the Dragon

China by Rail in the Year of the Dragon

  Just outside Beijing, our train began to move.  We had been standing still for nearly an hour, waiting for other faster trains to pass.  Endless rows of new apartment blocks and wide newly-paved streets devoid of cars finally gave way to fields of wheat and corn and the villages...
Residents struggle in China's "model community" as millions set to be resettled

Residents struggle in China’s “model community” as millions set to be resettled

Around 2.8 million people are to be moved to new towns in Shaanxi Province, linked, in part, to the south-north water transfer project. People are being moved from villages where older houses are at serious risk from landslides and floods (Image copyright: Andrew Stokols) On the night of July 18,...
Latest entries
Exploring Korea's "Smart City"

Exploring Korea’s “Smart City”

After living in China, I thought I had become inured to the massive scale of urban development, glossy investment ads promoting developing zones and other schemes, and the general fever for anything modern, glassy, and futuristic. But Korea is home to an urban development scheme that outdoes even China in ambition and scope: the Songdo...
We don't need 6 Californias, we need better regions

We don’t need 6 Californias, we need better regions

With reports that a tech entrepreneur’s ballot initiative to split California into 6 separate states has gained enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, we need to set the parameters of what exactly is at stake. And, as a proud Californian, I feel particularly compelled to speak out against this plan. I know, it may...
Exploring Seoul's Urban Form

Exploring Seoul’s Urban Form

Looking at a city’s urban form, or its general layout of physical features (streets, block sizes, buildings), can tell us a lot about a city: how it developed, how walkable it is, what era it dates from. In his book Great Streets, UC Berkeley urban design professor and former SF Director of City Planning  Allan...
The Other "Square People"

The Other “Square People”

  Thailand’s military declares a coup for the second time in 8 years, India elects a prime minister who has called himself a Hindu nationalist and looked the other way as over 1000 Muslims were slaughtered in his city, Japan’s Shinzo Abe begins an effort to ‘reinterpret’ the country’s pacifist constitution to allow for a...
Gangnam Style or Gangbuk Style?

Gangnam Style or Gangbuk Style?

Oppa is Gangnam Style..the very word Gangnam is enough to conjure up the jarringly repetitive techo beat and the addicting yet now gag-inducing horse-riding mime that has become the world’s most-watched youtube video. But in addition to that, for me, the song (if we can call it a song) is a perfect starting point for a...
Future as Past: Zaha Hadid's New Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Future as Past: Zaha Hadid’s New Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Finding myself lost within the sinuous darkened hallways of Zaha Hadid’s new Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, it is easy to see how Ms. Hadid could state casually that it was not her responsibility to consider the condition of the exploited migrant workers building her World Cup Stadium in Qatar, nearly 1000 of whom have...
Zizek in Korea?

Zizek in Korea?

South Korea is perhaps an unlikely destination for one of the world’s foremost leftist intellectuals, Slavoj Zizek.  This is a man who gives lectures in ratty white t-shirts and baggy pants, who routinely mixes dense critical theory with obscene bathroom jokes, and who has been criticized for provocative comments such as “Hitler was not violent...
Seoul: Cute Urbanism

Seoul: Cute Urbanism

Two weeks after arriving in Seoul, I’m ready to write my first post on the city that has rapidly become known as one of the most forward-thinking, innovative, stylish cities in the world.  Only a decade or so ago, Seoul had a similar reputation as Beijing currently has: polluted and industrial.  Today, it presents a...
This Chart Explains Nothing!

This Chart Explains Nothing!

For a country long thought to be geographically-challenged, maps are suddenly all the rage.  Every day a new map seems to be taking the Internets by storm, purporting to show everything from the most popular brands in each state to countries most open to foreigners. Epitomized by bloggers like Ezra Klein and Max Fisher of The...
Gentrification: An Inconvenient Truth

Gentrification: An Inconvenient Truth

Gentrification.  The word is so often on the tongues of New York’s young professional residents as to render it meaningless.  As I moved to the city after two years in China, I prepared myself for the skyrocketing rents and surge of young people into previously seedy areas of Brooklyn along the L Line. Searching for...
Mapping China's Surnames  制图 "老百姓"

Mapping China’s Surnames 制图 “老百姓”

Using this cool new website that maps global surnames according to geographic origin, I was able to map a few of the most common Chinese surnames.  The map shows data at the sub-national level, enabling a province-level map of China’s surnames.  China presents a unique context in which to study the origin of surnames due to...
Shanghai's Best Shanghai-nese Food

Shanghai’s Best Shanghai-nese Food

  Shanghai’s rise as one of the world’s most important cities has brought increasingly sophisticated nightlife and an international restaurant scene.  But to focus on Shanghai’s snazzy new restaurants while missing some of the city’s best local eateries would be a mistake.  Shanghainese food also includes much more than the ubiquitous and ever-popular xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings....