Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
China Initiative

Na Fu

China Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow


Na Fu is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the China Initiative and the Watson Institute. She completed her Ph.D. in Politics at the New School for Social Research. Her ethnographic research examines the political economy of networked production from mass production to mass customization in the Pearl River Delta Region of China. She follows the shoe production network to address the transforming scales of production under the platform economies in China. These scales generate new forms of state and market relations, labor practices, and spatial applications.


Her current book project examines the future of China’s manufacturing from the perspective of the shift from mass production to “mass customization” in shoe production and its networks in the Pearl River Delta (PRD). This research considers the costs of this transformation through its political, social, and spatial impacts. The concept of mass customization is central to this book. The adoption of mass customization has transformed shoe production into a decentralized, specialized, flexible, data-driven, and e-retail-based production network. This network is only possible through support from small- and medium-scale production with a digitally oriented, spatially-connected, cross-provincial network that relies on contingent short-term labor (“shared labor”). Through an analysis of the interactions between local states and enterprises, this reserach provides a comparative study of new institutional relationships reflecting adaptive responses by producers and officials. Furthermore, through the decentralized production network, the spatial orientation of the production network is extended into fragmented, informal, and cross-provincial flows, which challenge existing political and social institutions.


Fu, Na. 2021. “Border at the Center of the Myth, Three Stories from Fishing Villages.” Made in China Journal, Vol March. 114-118.

Chen, Xiangming, Na Fu, Sam Zhou, and Gavin Xu. 2020. “The Spatial Decoupling and Recombination of Capital and Labor.” In Mobilities of Labour and Capital in Asia, edit by Preet S Aulakh, and Philip F Kelly. Cambridge University Press. 120-154.

Fu, Na. 2018. “Evolving Rural Typologies for Rapidly Growing Cities.” Architectural Design, Vol 88. 2018. 70-77.

Fu, Na. 2016. “Community Building: Releasing the Pressure.” In Shenzhen from Factory of the World to World City, NAI010. 114-118.