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Centre of Development Studies



As a highly motivated economist with a strong background in economics, politics and public policy, Yan has also obtained six years’ first-hand working experience of public policy and practice in the Chinese government. Dr Zhang currently acts as the Principal Investigator (PI) of the British Academy research project of “Accelerating Sustainability among the People, Nature and Culture: the Political Economy of China’s Transformative Governance in the Lost Shangri_La”. Sustainable development is a shared responsibility. In a fundamentally changing political and economic global landscape, understanding China’s green governance is essential for the global acceleration of sustainability. The research project aims to conceptualise sustainability as the ‘commons’, with in-depth study of the complex reality with various actors in the transformation process, framing out the relationships and dynamics in play, and more importantly, the political economy of power structure in the people-nature-culture nexus.


Yan’s research interests include the concept, theories and framework of the “commons”, development economics, political economics, welfare economics, public economics, public goods, common-pool resources (CPRs), energy studies, power industrial policy, hydropower, China, Southeast Asia, water governance, cultural heritage, cultural economics, public policy and practice, political philosophy and social anthropology.


Key publications: 

Book (Research Monograph)

1. Zhang, Y. (2017). Governing the Commons in China, Oxford: Routledge. Routledge Studies on the Chinese Economy series, January 2017, ISBN: 9781138696693.


Book chapter

2. Zhang, Y. (2012). Heritage as Cultural Commons: Towards an Institutional Approach of Self-Governance, In E.E. Bertacchini, G. Bravo, M. Marrelll and W. Santagata (Eds.), Cultural Commons: A New Perspective on the Production and Evolution of Cultures, Edward Elgar Publishing, August 2012, ISBN: 9781781000052.


Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

  1. Zhang, Y. (2017). “Crossing the Divide: an integrated framework of the commons”, Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Review, 2017, May. DOI 10.1007/s40844-017-0077-2.
  2. Zhang, Y. (2017). “ Accelerating Sustainability by Hydropower Development in China: The Story of HydroLancang” Sustainability, 2017, 9(8), 1305.
  3. Zhang, Y. (2016). “Hydropower: is prosperity without growth possible?”, International Journal on Hydropower & Dams, 2016, Special Edition, Issue Five, Sept 2016.
  4. Zhang, Y. (2006). “Eco-Museums Network within the Old Town of Lijiang: UNESCO ‘Lijiang Model’ for Sustainable Development”, Political Science, University of Torino-International Labour Organization, 2006.
  5. Zhang, Y. (2010). “Rethinking Cultural Heritage: Valuations and Dilemmas”, University of Cambridge, Development Studies, 2010, 1-25.
  6. Chang, H.-J. & Zhang, Y. (2011). “Institutions and economic development: theory, policy and history.” Journal of Institutional Economics 7.4 (2011): 473. Translated by Yan Zhang in Chinese, in Review of Evolutionary Economics and Economics of Innovation, 2011-01. (Chinese)


Book Review

13. Zhang, Y. (2015). “The State and the Advocate: Case Studies on Development Policy in Asia, by Teresita Cruz-del Rosario”. Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, Vol. 32, No.1 (2015), pp 183-184.


Conference Papers

14. Zhang, Y. (2010). “Institutional Approach of Self-governance on Cultural Heritage as Common Pool Resources”, EBLA Working Papers, 2010.



15. Zhang, Yan. 2017. "Lessons and Reflections on the Millennium Village Project," Cambridge, United Kingdom: Smart Villages Initiative (SVI).

16. van Gevelt, Terry and Yan Zhang. 2017. "Making Smart Villages a Reality," J. Holmes, Technical Report for Smart Villages. Cambridge: Smart Villages Initiative (SVI).

17. SVI, Smart Villages Initiative. 2017. "The Smart Villages Initiative: Findings 2014-2017," Cambridge, United Kingdom: Smart Villages Initiative (SVI).

18. GHF, Global Heritage Fund. 2012. "Global Heritage-Based Development: A New Paradigm for Developing Countries," New York: Global Heritage Fund (GHF).

Teaching and Supervisions


During her many years’ stay at Cambridge, Yan has given supervisions and lectures at the Newnham College. She has also assisted supervisions for MPhil students at the Centre of Development Studies.

British Academy Research Associate
Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge
Research Associate, China Centre, Jesus College
Bye-Fellow of Newnham College
BSc (Hons), MPhil PhD (Cantab)
Currently not taking PhD Students
Dr  Yan  Zhang