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Han Cheng

Han Cheng

PhD Candidate

Han Cheng is interested in the dynamics of international cooperation and global governance, with a particular focus on the so-called 'rising powers'. His current research examines the emergence of diverse global development ideas and practices. Prior to PhD, he worked three years at leading think tanks in Beijing and Washington DC on international economic policy, and advised projects with the UN and others in China, India, South Africa, Kenya, Gabon and elsewhere.



  • PhD Candidate Geography, University of Cambridge, January 2017-present
  • MPhil Geography, University of Cambridge 2016
  • Visiting Fellow, Yale University MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies 2015
  • BA, Renmin University of China 2011


  • Cambridge Trust International Scholarship
  • Graduate Research Award, Trinity Hall, Cambridge
  • Philip Lake Fund & William Vaughan Lewis Fund Research Award, Department of Geography
  • Alexander von Humboldt German Chancellor Fellowship
  • Robert Bosch Global Governance Futures Fellowship
  • Northeast Asia Economic Forum Young Leader Fellowship


Han's PhD project examines China's growing production of international development knowledges. Within the increasingly pluralising landscape of global development, China stands out as a particular vibrant and expanding player. Specifically, accompanying China's growing presence is the production of its knowledge constructs on distinct ways of seeing, doing and imagining development. The knowledge production processes are drawn on both China's domestic experiences, and also its active engagement with 'Southern' and 'Northern' counterparts through dialogue and partnerships.

This project seeks to explore how various knowledges travel, translate and come into play. The aim is to arrive at a critical geographical understanding of what particular knowledge constructs emerge out of these assembling processes, and why. His research looks to investigate the messy politics of knowledge production, examining the entanglement of multiple forces that shapes how 'development' comes to be understood, framed and articulated. Using ethnographic methods, his fieldwork focuses on a group of Chinese development experts and their knowledge production activities in China, India and Tanzania.

His research also reflects on how China's role is affecting Western donors' transition strategies and global development agendas. Meanwhile, he is interested in the rise of Chinese non-state actors in global development, including business consultancies, private philanthropies, NGOs and volunteer organisations. This PhD project is built on his MPhil thesis in 2016, examining the discursive changes of development ideas in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) over the past fifteen years.


Selected presentations

  • Development Studies Association Rising Powers Study Group 'Rising Powers in 2018' One Day Workshop, London School of Economics, London April 2018
  • ESRC & Africa Research Institute Workshop, African cities in a changing development context: 'new donors', investment and urban transformation, London June 2017
  • Department of Geography, Cambridge: Societies, Markets, States Research Group Seminar, May 2017; MPhil Forum, June 2016
  • Development Studies Association Annual Conference, Oxford Department of International Development, Oxford September 2016
  • Rising Powers Young Researchers Conference, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton March 2016

External activities

  • Co-Convenor, Geographies of Knowledge Research Group, Cambridge, 2017-present
  • Member, Global Challenges Initiative for the SDGs, Cambridge, 2017-present
  • Graduate Research Fellow, Global Economic Governance Programme, Cambridge, 2016-present
  • Member, Development Studies Association, 2016-present