Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies

Staff Profile

Dr Kean Fan Lim

Senior Lecturer in Economic Geography



Dr. Kean Fan Lim is an economic geographer. He is primarily interested in how economic restructuring in East Asia is constituted by policy experimentation in city-regions. Specifically, Kean's research examines the extent to which the industrial, social welfare and financial policies of particular East Asian city-regions generate new developmental paths at the national scale. Kean joined the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) at Newcastle University in the spring of 2018. Before moving to Newcastle, Kean was appointed Assistant Professor in Economic Geography at the University of Nottingham (2014-2018) after completing his doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia (2009-2014). 

Kean's research is aimed at an interdisciplinary audience and has been published widely in leading academic journals within and beyond Geography. He is the co-author, with economic historian Niv Horesh, of a monograph that critically examines the geographical-historical premises of the 'China model' of development (Routledge, 2017).  

In March 2019, Kean published a single-authored monograph that foregrounds the connections between state rescaling, policy experimentation and economic restructuring in post-1949 China. The book is part of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Book Series (Wiley-Blackwell).

Kean has developed an award-winning research track record in economic geography and urban and regional studies. In 2019, his research received double recognition by the Regional Studies Association (RSA) in 2019 with his nomination as Early Career Plenary Speaker at the 2019 RSA Winter Conference in London. At the same conference, he also received the RSA & Routledge Early Career Award. In 2022, Kean received the International Geographical Union's Early Career Award for "sustained research excellence in economic geography, unique ability to establish cross-disciplinary engagements, and dedication to serving his research community".  

During 2017 and 2018, Kean served as an elected board member of the American Association of Geographers Economic Geography Specialty Group. He is currently Secretary of the Economic Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers. At the same time, he is an editorial advisory board member of the journal Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space (since 2017) and the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Book Series (since 2020). Within the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Kean is the convenor of the Economic Geography Research Cluster


Current and future research: an overview


A major line of Dr. Kean Fan Lim's current research is an extension of his doctoral research conducted at the University of British Columbia (2009-2014). This multi-sited project problematises the prevalent claim that a unidirectional, epochal change (e.g. from ‘socialism’ to ‘capitalism’ or centralisation to decentralisation) has occurred in the Chinese political economy after 1978. It emphasises instead a much more deeply sedimented, path-dependent pattern of development that is marked by significant (and enduring) forms of uneven economic-geographical development.


Half of the project draws on field research on contemporary policy experimentation in "nationally strategic new areas" in Chongqing (in interior China) and the Pearl River Delta (southeastern China, adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau) to examine what and why regulatory change is happening. Working from this vantage point, the other half comprises a geographical-historical analysis of the rationale of the institutions to be reformed. In so doing, the project demonstrates the tensions of contemporary reforms with the logics of institutions inherited from earlier regimes. This project has been revised into a monograph for the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Book Series (contracted by Wiley-Blackwell and published in March 2019). 


Kean recently completed another project that aims to explain the emergence of state-driven strategic coupling with transnational capital through large-scale infrastructural projects. Specific focus is given to the rationale and impacts the Europe-China Railway on shifting production networks across Eurasia. Fieldwork was conducted in Duisburg (Germany) and Chongqing (China) to ascertain if the railway has enhanced industrial agglomeration and economic performance. The project was funded by the British Academy Small Research Grant, with support from the Sino-British Fellowship Trust. (September 2016 to December 2017). 


Kean is currently developing work in financial geography by conceptualising the geographical preconditions of the internationalisation of the Chinese currency - the renminbi (RMB). The goal is to understand how global offshore RMB financial hubs connect with selected territories within the Chinese mainland to drive the internationalisation process. In addition to research in China, Kean will examine how the governments of Hong Kong and Singapore are responding to challenges posed simultaneously by an increasingly volatile global economy and growing social demands for enhanced livability. These two key global city-states in East Asia offer excellent platforms to understand the socio-political conditions necessary for the reproduction of economic competitiveness in global cities.


Dr. Kean Fan Lim is a teaching member in the following undergraduate modules in 2020-2021 (semester 2):

Geo1010 - Interconnected World

Geo2099 - Economic Geography (co-Module Leader)

Geo3114 - Local and Regional Development

Please contact Kean if you are interested in undertaking postgraduate research on economic geography and city-regional development.