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Conservation Research Institute



Dr Yan Zhang is currently working as British Academy Research Fellow in the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, where she is leading the research project of “Accelerating Sustainability among the People, Nature and Culture: the Political Economy of China’s Transformative Governance in the Lost Shangri-La”. As a highly motivated economist with a strong background in economic development, public policy and energy/environmental economics, Dr Zhang also obtained six years’ first-hand work experience of public policy and practice in the Chinese government. She also serves as Research Associate of “Belt and Road” Initiative and Chinese development at the China Centre of Jesus College; and Bye-Fellow and Tutor at Newnham College. She received her MPhil and doctorate here at Cambridge. Her expertise is in political economy of energy, public policy and development studies with special focus on China. The research work that she has been conducting for many years, are policy-relevant and empirical in nature.  


Interdisciplinary sustainable development studies of the commons under Social-Ecological system (SES) model, to understand dynamic complexity of policies, practices, governance and behaviours, and to explore scalable and integrated solutions, with geographical focus on China, Southeast Asia and East Asia. I am particularly excited about water governance as the management of available water resources; renewable energy with a focus on more environmentally sustainable approaches to energy production and consumption; innovation of technology and institutions; and sustainable urbanization approaches, particularly on the Chinese urban development.


Key publications: 

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

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.

Zhang, Y. (2017). “Accelerating Sustainability by Hydropower Development in China: The Story of HydroLancang” Sustainability, 2017, 9(8), 1305.

Zhang, Y. (2016). “Hydropower: is prosperity without growth possible?”, International Journal on Hydropower & Dams, 2016, Special Edition, Issue Five, Sept 2016.

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.

Geographical region

East Asia
South East Asia
British Academy Research Fellow, Centre of Development Studies
Dr Yan  Zhang


Departments and institutes: 
Research keywords: 
Climate Change