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.
Songdo style: How wise is Korea’s ‘smart city’?

Songdo style: How wise is Korea’s ‘smart city’?

“Songdo’s model may not be the panacea for all the world’s urban ills, but it remains a work in progress” Aug 26,2014   Left: Songdo’s new office towers and residential units rise behind Central Park, a green centerpiece of the 1,500-acre new city modeled after New York’s famous urban park....
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
Uber and the City

Uber and the City

 As Uber gains more control over transportation in cities, it will also inevitably gain more interests in the decisions cities make that affect public transportation It’s been a rough week for Uber. After a woman was reportedly raped by an Uber cab driver in New Delhi, India has advised all states to ban such web-based...
China's red turn?

China’s red turn?

China’s call for artists to visit the countryside should be viewed in light of recent political upheaval, not the Cultural Revolution.   On a recent trip to rural Zhejiang to look at historic village preservation efforts , I found myself staying in an interesting hotel, evocatively named the 知青公社 or “Intellectual Youth Commune” in Songyang...
Saving China's dying villages

Saving China’s dying villages

China’s economic future may lie in urban-driven consumption, but that doesn’t mean its villages are unimportant. This year, the country’s powerful NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) unveiled its new urbanization plan, calling for China to become 60% urban by 2020. But, with China’s huge urban population, that means nearly 600 million residents will remain...
My Seoul Neighborhood: Yeonhui

My Seoul Neighborhood: Yeonhui

Strolling amongst quiet alleys and happening upon small boutique stores, organic groceries, and well-designed cafes…we must be in a city like New York, San Francisco, London. But Seoul? Yeonhui-dong, my neighborhood, is just such a place. It’s not exactly on the tourist map, but its not that out of the way—just a 10 minute walk...
Fan Popo's fight against Chinese homophobia

Fan Popo’s fight against Chinese homophobia

August 12th, 2014 | Author: Andrew Stokols Photos by: courtesy of Fan Popo Fan Popo might not look like a typical activist, or a filmmaker, for that matter. He sips calmly on an O.B. beer while standing on stage in flip flops and shorts at Seoul’s Queer Film Festival, taking a photo with audience members...
Hukou Reform and China's "City States"

Hukou Reform and China’s “City States”

Following my recent posts on China’s recently announced “reforms” to the hukou, or household registration system, I think its necessary to look at it in the context of urban population in China, a topic I’ve written about before here. According to the news conference held last week, China will loosen restrictions on rural residents obtaining legal...
Hukou Reform: a Modest Start

Hukou Reform: a Modest Start

Ok, it’s here, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: China’s hukou reform. Yes, the Chinese government is finally letting go of some of the much-discussed, much-criticized, yet still very-much-in-force remnant of Socialism that still defines Chinese life: the household registration system. Well..not so fast. Yesterday, the Chinese government announced with full official fanfare complete...
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 broader...
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...