Dr Haili Ma

Dr Haili Ma


Dr Haili Ma is Associate Professor/Reader in Performance and Creative Economy with research interest focuses on the artistic evolution of traditional performing arts and their contribution to sustainalbe socio-economic development.

Before coming to the UK in 1997, I was a member of the Shanghai Luwan All-Female Yue Opera Company (Luwan Yueju Tuan), specializing in male role (xiaosheng). I continued to perform and produce whilst pursuing my academic studies: between 2006-2007 I conceived and played the lead character Song in Dis-Orientation at Riverside Studios, London, in collaboration with Shanghai Yue Opera House, China and Bordercrossings, UK; I sang Chinese opera with refugee musicians from Congo, Brazil, Iran, Pakistan and Palestine at the 2007 Manchester International Festival, directed by renonwed Palestinian musician Reem Kelani and received a 5 out of 5 review; in 2012, I co-produced one section of the Manchester Carnival Parade, fusing Chinese opera movements with Maculele dance. I was awarded a doctoral degree at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds in 2011, with Research Distinction. 

I am currently the Principle Investigator of two research projects, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Creative Economy in China Newton Grant: Ghost in M50 Host (2018-2021) and UK-China Creative Industries Partnership Development Grant: Bridging the Gaps (2020-2023). Both projects take Chinese opera, a synthetic popular theatrical form consisting of literature, music, dance, design as the case study to bring together artists, arts institutions, digital media small and medium enterprises (SMEs), government policy makers across China and the UK to explore joint production of digitalized forms of Chinese opera whilst establishing a transnational ‘creative chain’.

I am the author of Urban Politics and Cultural Capital, the case of Chinese opera (Routledge 2015) and I am presently completing my second monograph Understanding Cultural and Creative Industries through Chinese opera, contracted by Palgrave Macmillan Publisher.


  • International Director
  • Founder and Director: MA Global Performance and Cultural Industries

Research interests

Chinese Theatre

Chinese Opera/Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cultural and Creative Industries

Digital Performance and Creative Economy
Ma Haili. 2015. Urban Politics and Cultural Capital, the case of Chinese opera. Oxton: Routledge
Book reviews: 
"Anyone with experience in China's performing arts world over the past three decades will recognize the seriousness of the issues Ma Haili addresses in her new book on Reform-Era Shanghai Yueju 越剧. An alternative title for the project might have been 'Struggle to Perform: The Vicissitudes of Chinese Opera under Marketization.'" - Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature 2016, Vol.35/1: 61-63. 
"The book is a unique and significant contribution to our understanding of Chinese opera during economic reform ... The significance of the book comes from its main theme, the relationship between art and politics in yueju, and the author's convincing argument about how the dynamics underlying that relationship operate. The approach of the author is to open the book with a summary of the founding ideology of the CCP and its revised version, and then argue in the chapters how the contradictions between, and the confusion caused by, the two versions are the ultimate cause of the problems for SYC, yueju, and by extension all Chinese regional operas." - Asian Theatre Journal 2016, Vol.33/2: 507-509.
"This case study of the process of marketization of Chinese opera as a cultural product combines deep theoretical thought with empirical data that are hard to obtain. Haili gives a detailed and easy to read account of 100 years of history of a Chinese cultural production. It is a book of high value for social scientists looking for the application of Bourdieu and Becker’s theory of art to new empirical domains. This book brings you a little closer to understanding the Chinese art market and its cultural policy." - Contemporary Sociology 2017, Vol.46/3: 312-312.
Selected research grants awarded 
  • 2020-2023, AHRC UK-China Creative Partnership Development Fund. Principal Investigator. Research topic: Bridging the Gaps: mixed reality performance of Chinese opera in rural and urban Shanghai. Grant value: £1,632k (£500kAHRC+£1,132k from project partners).
  • 2019, AHRC UK-China Creative Industries Partnership Development Fund. Principal Investigator. Research topic: 2019 Bridging the Gaps: mixed reality performance of Chinese Opera in Shanghai’s rural and urban heritage sites. Grant value: £59,700 (£24,800AHRC+£34,900 from project partners).
  • 2018-2021, AHRC Creative Economy in China Newton Fund. Principal Investigator, in collaboration with Exeter University and Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA). Research topic: Popular performance for new urban audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera/Ghost in M50 Host. Grant value: £1,157k (230kAHRC+237kSTA+£690k from project partners) 
  • 2018, ESRC Wales Doctoral Training. Lead Applicant, in partnership with Arts Council of Wales. Research topic: Sino-Wales cultural policy evaluation since the 2005 UNESCO convention. Grant recieved: £70k. 
  • 2017-2018, National Natural Science Foundation of China. Principal Investigator. Research topic: Shenzhen Creative Class and Sustainable City Development. Grant received: £18k.
  • 2016, AHRC IPS Fellowship. Principal Investigator. Research topic: Chinese Cultural Economy, modern tradition, the case of Chinese opera. Grant received: £4,500.
  • 2015-2018, China National Social Science Major Research Funding. Co-investigator with Zhejiang University, China. Research topic: Basic Problems on Contemporary Aesthetics and Critical Theories. Grant received: £80k.
  • 2010, Shanghai Jiaotong University, China. Principal Investigator. Research topic: UK-China Cultural Dialogue. Grant received: £6k.  

Selected invited keynotes, lectures and conference papers:

  • 2nd-4thDecember 2019, UK-China Creative Partnership Development Forum, AHRC and UKRI, Shanghai, China.
  • 4th-5thMarch 2019, Engaging the Parliament through Research, AHRC, London, UK.
  • 6th-8thMarch 2018, Engaging with Government, Influence Cultural Policy through Research, AHRC and Institute of Government, London, UK.
  • 25th-26thOctober 2017, Development through the Creative Economy in China, AHRC, RCUK, UNESCO Creative City, Shanghai, China.
  • 18thMay 2017, The EU Global Challenge Forum – Ahead of the Curve, The Robert Bosch Academy and The German Commission for UNESCO, Berlin, Germany.
  • 26thFebruary 2016, Culture and the Creative Economy in Global Context, Artists and Creativity, Chester University with UNESCO, UK.
  • 8th May, 2015, Cultural Diversity and Equality at Global Cultural Economy Roundtable, The University of Warwick, UK. 
  • 29th-30th July, 2014, Re-inventing Tradition for the New Millennium, at the Cultural Economy Workshop hosted by Prato Monash University with UNESCO, Italy.
  • 21st-23rd October, 2013, Chinese Opera: Folk Art and Mass Expression, at a workshop hosted by UNESCO: Cultural Economy, Sustainable Development and the Diversity of cultural Expressions, Shanghai Jiaotong University, China.
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • 2007 – 2011, PhD, PCI, University of Leeds (full scholarship, Research Distinction)
  • 2004 – 2005, MA in Asia Pacific Studies and Chinese Business, University of Leeds (full scholarship)
  • 2001 – 2004, BA in English Literature with English Language, University of Salford (2:1)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the AHRC Peer Review College

Student education

I am the founder and director of MA Global Performance and Cultural Industries. The programme contextualises theories and practice of Theatre and Performance studies within the Cultural and Creative industries (CCIs) to critically examine what performance is and how it is produced and consumed within a variety of global-local and socio-political economic structures. Global performance in this context refers to both live and digital forms that are produced for educational and/or commercial purposes, with international audiences in mind. The programme will draw on interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary theories and research methodologies, such as theatre and performance studies, sociology and media studies. Selected case studies are applied to assist learners to contextualise how the symbolic, aesthetic aspects of global performance products are influenced by respective historical, socio-economic conditions and how the process in turn contributes to the development of cultural and creative industries, in a global context. The significance of this field of practice is demonstrated by the growth of international recommendations and regulations, such as the UNESCO 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention for global trade and exchange.

Within PCI, we have a fully licenced commercial theatre stage@leeds, which provides in-house educational space, both theatre spaces and dance studio, for practice-led modules, as well as a programme of professional touring performances, including work by international companies. Students on this programme have the opportunity to observe the process of performance making in this space as well as to gain practical experience through optional modules and the PCI society as appropriate. Such a multi-disciplinary learning environment and full integration of theatre and performance and cultural and creative industries with a global focus make the programme unique in the UK. The programme equips the students with knowledge to either progress onto a research degree and/or pursue a career globally.

The programme will commence from September 2021.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Cultural Policy

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>