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The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China

The dynamics of urban processes in China's ongoing transformation are analyzed, based on fieldwork in 24 Chinese cities.

September 1, 2010 4:00pm to 5:30pm

In The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China, Hsing emphasizes the centrality of cities in China’s ongoing transformation. Based on fieldwork in 24 Chinese cities between 1996 and 2007, she forwards an analysis of the relations between the city, the state and society through two concepts: urbanization of the local state and civic territoriality. Urbanization of the local state is a process of state power building entailing an accumulation regime based on the commodification of state-owned land, the consolidation and legitimation of territorial authority through construction projects, and a policy discourse dominated by notions of urban modernity. Civic territoriality encompasses the politics of distribution engendered by urban expansionism, and social actors’ territorial strategies toward self-protection. Findings are based on observations in three types of places. In the inner city of major metropolitan centers, municipal governments battle high-ranking state agencies to secure land rents from redevelopment projects, while residents mobilize to assert property and residential rights. At the urban edge, as metropolitan governments seek to extend control over their rural hinterland through massive-scale development projects, villagers strategize to profit from the encroaching property market. At the rural fringe, township leaders become brokers of power and property between the state bureaucracy and villages, while large numbers of peasants are dispossessed, dispersed, and deterritorialized; their mobilizational capacity is consequently undermined.

You-tien Hsing is Associate Professor of Geography at UC Berkeley. She is also the author of Making Capitalism in China: The Taiwan Connection (Oxford U Press, 1998), and co-editor (with Ching Kwan Lee) of Reclaiming Chinese Society: The New Social Activism (Routledge, 2009).

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