(Yunan) Y Xu


Yunan Xu is a Post-doctoral researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. She currently works for a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant awarded project "Commodity & Land Rushes and Regimes: Reshaping Five Spheres of Global Social Life (RRUSHES-5)".Prior to that, she worked as a post-doctor research fellow at Singapore Management University. She obtained her PhD degree in development studies at ISS and her master’s degree in nature resource management at Renmin University of China. Her research experience and interest revolve around land politics and commodity rush, and how these have shaped the politics of local natural resource control, food, as well as labour and livelihoods, with the geographic areas both in China and beyond (including the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative). She has published several  journal articles, reports and conference papers. She has published in top international academic journals, including Journal of Peasant Studies, Geoforum, Land use policy, Journal of Cleaner Production, Third World Quarterly and Third World Thematics, and has a monograph (Routledge) (in press).

She has an interdisciplinary education background, in the field of nature resource and environmental studies. She began her academic career in the water resource, geography, and environmental science field during her bachelor’s degree, which resulted in two joint articles. At the postgraduate level, she extended her scope of learning from natural science to social science, with particular a particular focus on environmental governance and natural resource management, in order to better understand complex social realities and seek better solutions for sustainability issues. During her master’s degree, her research focus on food safety and food policy in China, which is part of an international project on the environmental flow between the rural and urban areas collaborated with academics from Wageningen University and was resulted in a joint article. Then, during her PhD study, she shifted the research scope from consumption to production process, and from urban to rural areas.

Her PhD research is on the political economy and political ecology of the rise of the industrial tree plantation sector in China, with a focus on the dynamics of land, labour and livelihoods. In this research, she has employed the mix method and engaged with the global context and debates on crop booms, land politics, social differentiation, political reactions from below, accumulation and dispossession, and human-nature interactions, etc. Her study is global in scope with a focus on China, with implications both for China and beyond.

She is expertise in both qualitative and quantitative research methods. She is able to conduct mathematical models and statistical methods proficiently, with a series of relevant programming tools (e.g. R, SPSS, GAMS, LINGO). Moreover, she has gained expertise in critical political economy and political ecology perspectives during her PhD training.

Additionally, she has been invited to give lectures at Wageningen in the Netherlands, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies ([PlAAS][]) in University of The Western Cape, South Africa, and East Asia Institute ([EAI][]) at National University of Singapore, Singapore. She has helped organized Research in Progress Seminars at ISS (2014-2015) and has also been actively involved in facilitating and participating in various seminars and conferences in international settings (e.g. the "BRICS Initiatives for Critical Agrarian Studies" or [BICAS][]).

International Institute of Social Studies

Visiting fellow | Academic staff unit
Kortenaerkade 12, 's - Gravenhage

More information


  • Yunan Xu (2023) - Journal of Peasant Studies (Journal)

4240 Agrarian and Food Politics

Course Code

News regarding (Yunan) Y Xu

Massive land acquisitions not only bad news for villages

Yunan Xu analyses the 'taken-left' dynamics of the global land rush in villages in China
Tractors clearing forest land

Reflecting on the Plantationocene

Sugarcane plantations in China which are owned and operated by local villagers still operate according to the logic of extraction based on cheap land and labour

Industrial tree plantations and the land rush in China

New publication based on her PhD thesis
Defence Yunan Xu

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