The strength of the government is no match for the dramatic changes taking place each day in urban China. Government-led governance in cities faces new challenges in the process of modernization and urbanization. Each city is looking for new solutions to the bottleneck in the city’s sustainable development under conditions of limited resources and fierce regional competition. Life circle construction action has emerged gradually, expecting to alleviate problems through cooperation. However, the idea and practices of the life circle vary in different cities. Through reviews of the life circle theory and life circle system planning in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, we describe how the life circle works in different circumstances and identify that the conception of the life circle occurs in accordance with collaborative governance. The different levels of social capital show a different focus on the overall goal, construction process and the collaboration framework. This article discusses the reasons for these differences by comparing life circle construction activities in the three largest cities in China.
2017 The Association of Japanese Geographers