International Development Planning Review

Land and people: governing social conflicts in China's state-led urbanisation

International Development Planning Review (2019), 41, (3), 293–310.

Abstract

Since 2014, China has formalised rural-to-urban hukou transfer as part of its people-centred approach to urbanisation. This article aims to examine how 'urbanisation of people', a hukou-based reform of rural populations, intersects with 'urbanisation of land', a crucial arena of capital and power accumulation for the state. Building on ethnographic fieldwork research in Fang village, Guangzhou, this article argues that strategies of social governance – public participation under the strengthened role of the state, using law to resolve conflicts, and the state's receptiveness to demands of an economic nature – hold the key to state-led urbanisation. Social governance depoliticises people's engagement in territorial politics by channelling villagers' challenges to state-led urbanisation into a pecuniary discussion of material gain and loss. This article also sheds important light on how China's people-centred planning provides a powerful discursive structure that normalises highly contested local land development practices by giving them national legitimacy and programmatic coherence.

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References

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Abramson, D. B. (2007) ‘The dialectics of urban planning in China’, in F. Wu (ed.) China’s emerging cities: the making of new urbanism, New York, Routledge, 66–86. Google Scholar

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Bakken, B. (2000) The exemplary society: human improvement, social control, and the dangers of modernity in China, New York, Oxford University Press. Google Scholar

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Chen, H. (2012) ‘“Villages-in-the-city” and urbanization in Guangzhou, China’ (unpublished PhD thesis), Seattle, University of Washington. Google Scholar

China Development Research Foundation (2013) China’s new urbanization strategy, New York, Routledge. Google Scholar

Chuang, J. (2014) ‘China’s rural land politics: bureaucratic absorption and the muting of rightful resistance’, The China Quarterly, 219, 649–69. Google Scholar

Davidoff, P. (1965) ‘Advocacy and pluralism in planning’, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 31(4), 331–38. Google Scholar

Epstein, E. J. (1994) ‘Law and legitimation in post-Mao China’, in P. B. Potter (ed.) Domestic law reform in post-Mao China, Armonk, M. E. Sharpe, 19–55. Google Scholar

Friedmann, J. (1987) Planning in the public domain: from knowledge to action, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press. Google Scholar

Guangzhou Municipal Government (2011) Guangzhou city monograph 1991–2000, Guangzhou, Guangzhou Municipal Government. Google Scholar

Göbel, C., and Ong, L. H. (2012) ‘Social unrest in China’ (report to Europe China Research and Advice Network), https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Asia/1012ecran_gobelong.pdf (accessed 23 May 2019). Google Scholar

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Hoffman, L. M. (2014) ‘The urban, politics and subject formation’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(5), 1576–88. Google Scholar

Hsing, Y-T. (2010) The great urban transformation: politics of land and property in China, New York, Oxford University Press. Google Scholar

Karl, R. (2010) ‘The flight to rights: 1990s China and beyond’, Telos, 151, 87–104. Google Scholar

Lee, C. K. (2007) Against the law: labor protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press. Google Scholar

Lee, C. K. (2014) ‘State and social protest’, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 143(2), 124–34. Google Scholar

Lin, G. C. S. and Ho, S. P. S. (2005) ‘The state, land system, and land development processes in contemporary China’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 95(2), 411–36. Google Scholar

Looney, K. and Rithmire, M. (2016) ‘Urbanization with Chinese characteristics? China’s gamble for modernization’, Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16–083. Google Scholar

Ministry of Construction (2007) ‘Research on issues of villages in the city construction and planning’, China Building Industry Press (in Chinese). Google Scholar

Ministry of Land and Resources (2011) ‘Investigative report on land rights issues in redevelopment of villages in the city’, http://www.mlr.gov.cn/wskt/flfg/201109/t20110906_938685.htm (accessed 16 September 2018). Google Scholar

Ong, L. H. (2014) ‘State-led urbanization in China: skyscrapers, land revenue and “concentrated villages”’, The China Quarterly, 217, 162–79. Google Scholar

Perera, N. (2010) ‘When planning ideas land: Mahaweli’s people-centered approach’, in P. Healey and R. Upton (eds) Crossing borders: international exchange and planning practices, London, Routledge, 141–72. Google Scholar

Perry, E. J. (2008) ‘Chinese conceptions of “rights”: from Mencius to Mao – and now’, Perspective on Politics, 6, 37–50. Google Scholar

Public Department of Communist Party of China (2008) ‘Reader in scientific development concept’ (in Chinese), Xuexi Publisher, http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/68294/135509/index.html, (accessed 23 July 2018). Google Scholar

Sargeson, S. (2013) ‘Violence as development: land expropriation and China’s urbanization’, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(6), 1063–85. Google Scholar

Schoon, S. (2014) ‘Chinese strategies of experimental governance: the underlying forces influencing urban restructuring in the Pearl River Delta’, Cities, 41, 194–99. Google Scholar

Shih, M. (2015) ‘The paradox of weiquan movements in urban china: social inequality and individual negotiation in land development’, in F. Miraftab, K. Salo and D. Wilson (eds) Cities and inequalities in a global and neoliberal world, New York, Routledge, 153–69. Google Scholar

Siu, H. (2007) ‘Grounding displacement: uncivil urban spaces in postreform South China’, American Ethnologist, 34(2), 329–50. Google Scholar

Smith, N. R. (2014) ‘Living on the edge: household registration reform and peri-urban precarity in China’, Journal of Urban Affairs, 36(1), 369–83. Google Scholar

State Council (2014) ‘The national new-type urbanisation plan 2014–2020’ (in Chinese), http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2014-03/16/content_2640075.htm (accessed 17 May 2019). Google Scholar

Tang, W-S. and Chung, H. (2002) ‘Rural–urban transition in China: illegal land use and construction’, Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 43(1), 43–62. Google Scholar

Vogel, E. (1990) One step ahead in China: Guangdong under reform, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. Google Scholar

Wu, F. (2015) Planning for growth: urban and regional planning in China, New York, Routledge. Google Scholar

Zhu, Y. (2000) ‘In situ urbanization in rural China: case studies from Fujian province’, Development and Change, 31, 413–34. Google Scholar

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Shih, Mi