Dr. Haili Ma

Dr. Haili Ma


My research focuses on Intangible cultural heritage/Chinese opera, Chinese cultural and creative industries, and performance and creative economy in global contexts. I am particularly interested in the evolution of traditional performing arts and the distinctive role of artists in generating sustainable political socio-economic development. 

I am the Principle Investigator of two AHRC UK-China creative industry grants: AHRC UK-China creative economy Newton grant (2018-2021) and AHRC UK-China creative partnership development grant (2020-2023), leading a team of research-industry partners including SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) digital companies, arts institutions and government organisations. The projects take Chinese opera as a case study examining the artistic evolution of traditional art forms through transnational joint productions and their socio-economic impact across China and the UK; the projects explore the concept and practice of building a sustainable ‘creative chain’ amongst SMEs, art institutions and policy makers in the process of global production and consumption.

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 pursued my academic career: between 2006-2007 I conceived and performed the lead character Song in Dis-Orientation, at Riverside Studios, London in collaboration with Shanghai Yue Opera House; I sang Chinese opera with musicians from Congo, Brazil, Iran, Pakistan and Palestine at the 2007 Manchester International Festival, which 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 completing a monograph Understanding Cultural and Creative Industries through Chinese Opera, contracted by Palgrave Macmillan Publisher.


  • International Director
  • Module Leader of Creative Economy in Global Contexts (PECI5215M)

Research interests

Intangible cultural heritage/Chinese opera 

Chinese cultural and creative industries

Performance and creative economy in global contexts
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: 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 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 value: £1,157k (230kAHRC+237kSTA+£690k from project partners) http://cyxy.sta.edu.cn/zycyxm/list.htm
  • 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 setting up a new MA in Global Performance and Cultural Industries, first enrolment commences from September 2021.

MA Global Performance and Cultural Industries brings together the two key disciplines – Performance and Cultural Industries – examining ‘live’ and ‘digital’ performing art and its associated global production and consumption. It develops students’ theoretical and practical knowledge of what global performance is and how it is produced and consumed within complex global, politically disparate, socio-economic systems. Global performance in this context refers to international theatre tours, digital media site performance, international festivals, and increasing intercultural collaboration to produce performances aimed for local as well as global markets.

The combination of both practice and theories in Performance and Cultural Industries in global contexts makes this programme second to none across UK higher education. It equips the students with both theoretical and practical knowledge to develop their research interest and enhance their career opportunities in the field of global performing industries, including producer, administrator, theatre manager, policy maker, educator and beyond.

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>