Profile picture of Xiaobo Su

Xiaobo Su

Department Head
Asian Studies, Climate Studies, Geography
Phone: 541-346-4568
Office: 175 Condon Hall
Research Interests: Tourism and urban development, international political economy, China and Southeast Asia


His research focuses on China’s transformation from a planned economy to a market economy after 1978. To understand the transformation, he examines issues of regulation, commodification, and development, and addresses what has happened on the ground and how individuals’ everyday life has been shaped by China’s political and economic transformation. In particular, he investigates urban and regional development and how two particular strategies of development—heritage tourism and transnational regionalization—transform material and vernacular landscapes. Material landscapes include buildings and streetscapes, while vernacular landscapes entail expressions of everyday life through music, dance, costume, religion, and daily routine activities.

Following Antonio Gramsci and Henri Lefebvre, he deploys the approach of political economy—as well as related literatures in cultural geography—to analyze China’s transformation. The approach of political economy seeks to unravel the antagonistic forces and social relations which foster and are encompassed within economic development. His research follows three tracks: urban development and the commodification of urban heritage; border politics and cross-border networks between China and mainland Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam), and state rescaling and Yunnan’s regional development.

He welcomes applicants in AY2023-2024, and would like to work with graduate students who focus on any of the following research topics. Please feel free to contact him if you have any question. 

  • Cross-border trade and border cities;
  • Transnational narcotics control and development intervention;
  • Urban entrepreneurialism and tourism development;
  • Border control and transnational migration;
  • China and its overseas development assistance

For more information, please visit my webpage:



Su, Xiaobo and Teo, Peggy (2009) The Politics of Heritage Tourism in China: A View from Lijiang. London and New York: Routledge. ix+208 pp.

Cai, Xiaomei and Su, Xiaobo (2020) Introduction to New Cultural Geography Literature (新文化地理学文献导读). Beijing: China Social Science Press (北京:中国社会科学出版社)

Selected Peer-reviewed Articles in English since 2015

1.        Su, Xiaobo; Lim, Kean Fan (2024) Urban state venturism: On state-led venture capital investments in the urban process of capital accumulation. Dialogues in Human Geography

2.        Liu, Peilin; Yang, Liguo, Su, Xiaobo (2023) Tourism, Feelings, and the Consumption of Heritage, Tourism Geographies, 25(2): 1483-1503.

3.        Lim, Kean Fan; Su, Xiaobo (2023) Making markets ‘decisive’: A firm-level evaluation of state-led development in the China-Myanmar border region. Journal of Economic Geography, 23(2): 397-418, 

4.        Li, Cansong; Su, Xiaobo (2022) Cross-border division of labor and China’s border control upon Myanmar migrants, Environment and Planning C, 40(8): 1717-1744,

5.        Su, Xiaobo; Lim, Kean Fan (2023) Capital accumulation, territoriality, and the reproduction of state sovereignty in China: Is this "new" state capitalism? Environment and Planning A, 55(3): 697-715,

6.        Su, Xiaobo; Miao, Yi (2022) Border Control and the Territorial Politics of Policy Experimentation in Chinese Border Cities, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 46(4): 522-541

7.        Yu, Yi; Su, Xiaobo (2023) Governing through the NGO—community eldercare in Beijing and Shanghai, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 63(2): 199-219, DOI: 10.1080/15387216.2021.1990101

8.        Su, Xiaobo (2022) Unpacking Administrative Rank: Interurban Competition and the Remaking of Local State Space in China, Political Geography, 92:

9.        Lim, Kean Fan; Su, Xiaobo (2021) Cross-border market building for narcotics control: A Polanyian analysis of the China-Myanmar border region, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 46(4): 834-849

10.     Su, Xiaobo; Li, Cansong (2021) Bordering Dynamics and the Geopolitics of Cross-border Tourism Between China and Myanmar, Political Geography

11.     Cai, Xiaomei and Su, Xiaobo (2021) Dwelling-in-Traveling: Western Expats and the Making of Temporary Home in Guangzhou, China, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 47(12): 2815-2823.

12.     Su, Xiaobo (2022) Smuggling and the Exercise of Effective Sovereignty at the China-Myanmar Border, Review of International Political Economy, 29(4): 1135-1158,

13.     Su, Xiaobo (2020) Geopolitical Imagination and the U.S. War on Drugs against China, Territory, Politics, Governance. 8(2): 204-221. DOI: 10.1080/21622671.2018.1554503.

14.     Su, Xiaobo and Cai, Xiaomei (2020) Spaces of Compromise: Border Control and the Limited Inclusion of Burmese Migrants in China, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 110 (3), 847-863.

15.     Su, Xiaobo and Lim, Kean Fan (2019) Opium substitution, reciprocal Control and the tensions of geoeconomic integration in the China-Myanmar Border, Environment and Planning A, 51(8): 1665-1683.

16.     Zhong, Yun; Su, Xiaobo (2019) Spatial Selectivity and Intercity Cooperation between Guangdong and Hong Kong, Urban Studies. 56(14): 3011-3023. 

17.     Su, Xiaobo; Cai, Xiaomei and Liu, Meixin (2019) Prostitution, Variegated Homes, and the Practice of Unhomely Life in China, Social and Cultural Geography, 20(3): 407-426.

18.     Su, Xiaobo (2018) Fragmented sovereignty and the geopolitics of illicit drugs in northern Burma, Political Geography, 63:20-30. 

19.     Su, Xiaobo and Chen, Zhigang (2017) Embeddedness and Migrant Tourism Entrepreneurs: A Polanyian Perspective, Environment and Planning A, 49(3): 652-669.

20.     Su, Xiaobo (2016) Repositioning Yunnan: security and China’s geoeconomic engagement with MyanmarArea Development and Policy, 1 (2): 178-194.

21.     Su, Xiaobo (2016) Development Intervention and Transnational Narcotics Control in Northern Myanmar, Geoforum, 68:10-20. 

22.     Su, Xiaobo (2015) Nontraditional Security and China’s Transnational Narcotics Control in Northern Laos and Myanmar, Political Geography, 48: 72-82. 

Su, Xiaobo (2015) Urban Entrepreneurialism and the Commodification of Heritage in China, Urban Studies, 52: 2874-2889. 


Updated on 12 January 2024


I will teach following courses in AY2023-2024

Fall 2023

  • Geog 612: Professional Development

Spring 2024

  • Geog 199: Global Drug Trade