Haili Ma

Haili Ma


My research focuses on intangible cultural heritage, cultural and creative industries, cultural policy, creative economy in global contexts. I am particularly interested in the evolution of traditional art forms and the distinctive role of entrepreneur artists in generating sustainable social, political and economic growth. 

Before coming to the UK in 1997, I was a member of the Shanghai Luwan All-Female Yue Opera Company, specializing in Xiaosheng (male role). I have continued to perform and produce whilst I pursue academic studies: between 2006-2007 I conceived and performed the lead character Song in Dis-Orientation, at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London in collaboration with Shanghai Yue Opera House; I sang Chinese opera and fused it with international musicians from Congo, Brazil, Iran, Pakistan and Palestine at the 2007 Manchester International Festival, which received 5 out of 5 review; in 2012, I co-produced the Manchester Carnival Parade, fusing Chinese opera movements with Maculele dance. I completed a PhD at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds, in 2011, with Research Distinction. 

Prior to joining Performance and Cultural Industries in August 2018, I was Senior Lecturer in Chinese, Dean of Chinese College at Cardiff University where I successfully set up a new BA Chinese (single and joint) and a new MA in Global Culture and Creativity, with teaching and research focus placed on global creative economy.

I am currently Principle Investigator of an over £1m AHRC Newton project 'Development Through the Creative Economy in China', in collaboration with Exeter University, Shanghai Theatre Academy, and multiple industrial partners across China and UK. The project "popular performance for new urban audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera" explores how digital media engagement with traditional forms may provide opportunities to enhance small and medium enterprise business, in partnership with the public sector, establishing a 'creative chain' that will enhance the diversity and sustainability of urban creative economy.  


  • International Director

Research interests

Intangible cultural heritage,
Cultural and creative industries, 
Cultural policy,
Creative economy in global contexts.
Selected research grants awarded
  • 2018-2021, AHRC Newton Fund. Principal Investigator, in collaboration with Exeter University and Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA). Research topic: Creative Economy Development in China ‘Popular performance for new urban audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera’. Grant received: £500k (250kAHRC+250kSTA) and £690k from project collaborators.
  • 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.
Upcoming publication
Ma Haili. 2019. (in press). Chinese Entertainment Industry, the case of folk Errenzhuan in Journal of Asian Theatre.  
<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

  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

Student education

I teach a range of modules across our BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance and MA Culture, Creativity and Entrepreneurship.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Cultural Policy
<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://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>