Ongoing Project

The Geopolitics of City-regionalism

An examination of the institutions and processes of city regionalism in the USA, Asia and Europe

Project summary

The Challenge

As cities become increasing grouped together to form ‘City-Regions’, how can we understand the resulting geopolitical processes?

The Approach

Working with project partners, in depth interviews were conducted with both public and private stakeholders in the USA, Europe and Asia.

The Outcome

The project aims to deliver new insights into two poorly understood dimensions of city-regionalism.

Lead academics

Funded by

Project partners

The Challenge

Many national and provincial governments are turning to city-regionalism – the amalgamation of groups of cities into larger regional administrative structures – as a strategic tool for delivering infrastructure more efficiently and equitably.

Explanations for the rising international significance of city-regionalism often emphasise geo-economics factors such as globalisation and economies of agglomeration. This research project takes a novel approach in focusing on geopolitical processes.

As industrial cities spread further outwards, often merging with surrounding suburbs, villages and rural communities, the “city-region” concept was increasingly used to describe functional interactions and relationships between the core city and its hinterland.
Professor Andy Jonas

Professor Andy Jonas

Professor of Human Geography at the University of Hull

The full research team

  • Andy Goetz Professor in the Department of Geography & the Environment at University of Denver

  • Sutapa Bhattacharjee Department of Geography and Environment at University of Denver

  • Sylvia Brady Geography lecturer at Metropolitan State University of Denver

  • Sami Moisio Professor of Spatial Planning and Policy at the University of Helsinki

  • Yonn Dierwechter Professor of Urban Studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma

  • Dr Yi Li School of Public Administration at Hohai University, Nanjing

The Approach

Andy Jonas, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Hull, is leading a long-term research project to investigate the geopolitical processes shaping city-regionalism in North America, China and Europe.

The project examined the domestic political circumstances in which national governments deploy city-regionalism to deliver strategic investments in transportation for example mass-transit projects and other social infrastructures.  It also aims to provide understanding of the variety of ways in which nation states harness city-regionalism for international competition.

the political influence of city-regions increasingly transcends national borders and geopolitical spheres of influence. Consequently, efforts to promote city-regionalism frequently trigger discussion, debate and – at times – outright conflict around the appropriate scale and scope of territorial government and governance.

The research involves in-depth interviews with public and private stakeholders in the United Kingdom (London and Oxford-Cambridge region); Finland (Helsinki city region); USA (Denver Metropolitan Area, Boston and Detroit) and China (Shanghai and Yangtze River Delta region). And has received funding from the Regional Studies Association and the National Centers for Intermodal Transportation and Competitiveness (Denver and Mississippi universities).

Research highlights

The project uses case studies to develop insights into the contemporary geopolitics of city-regions and infrastructure provision. The following city-regions were initially identified as potential case studies, drawing upon the PIs prior knowledge and existing research collaborations: Denver city-region and Seattle-Tacoma city-region in the USA; and Greater London (UK) and Helsinki (Finland) in Europe. Subsequently, the Yangtze River Delta Region was added, which represents a new collaboration with scholars in China. Additional case studies could be added with a view to future collaborations beyond the project timeline.

The research involves field site visits and stakeholder interviews in each of the case study locations. A desktop analysis of public documents and national and local media coverage is also being undertaken.

The Impact

By highlighting the role of GIP3s as geopolitical intermediaries, the project aims to deliver new insights into two poorly understood dimensions of city-regionalism. Firstly, it will greatly enhance our understanding of the links between the financing of infrastructure and city-regionalism. Secondly, it seeks to understand the role of institutional and political actors in driving the processes by which city-regionalism is becoming internationally orchestrated.

The specific hypothesis is that GIP3s operate as geopolitical intermediaries between processes of city-regional governance, on the one hand, and the sourcing of global finance capital, on the other. Understanding the roles and resources of GIP3s offers considerable scope to shed light upon the competitiveness, sustainability and geopolitical agency of city-regions. It is anticipated that future research on city-regionalism could profit from the making of stronger conceptual links between the global financing of infrastructure and the corresponding geopolitical processes operating around and within city-regions.


Jonas, A. and Moisio, S., 2016. City regionalism as geopolitical processes. Progress in Human Geography, 42(3), pp.350-370.

Li, Y. and Jonas, A.E.G. (2019) City-regionalism as countervailing geopolitical processes: the evolution and dynamics of Yangtze River Delta region, China. Political Geography 73

Jonas, A.E.G. (2020) China’s urban development in context: variegated geographies of city-regionalism and managing the territorial politics of urban development. Urban Studies (special issue on ‘New Directions of Urban Studies in China’)