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Chris Webster, Jingjing Ruan and Guibo Sun

Gating in insecure cities is likely to be a response to both real and perceived issues of insecurity. This brings private benefits to gated inhabitants but imposes social costs. A social cost frequently cited by urban planners is the fragmentation of urban form. In this chapter, the authors explore the sense of security as a private benefit of gated compounds and spatial segregation of urban form as a social cost. They review the issue with reference to the published literature and discuss the special case of gating in China. Issues from the discussion are illustrated with maps showing the ubiquity of gated estates in the Chinese city of Nanchang, including legacy gated neighbourhoods from the era of the state-controlled economy and modern gated communities. From a household survey (N = 2404) drawn from a sample of the city’s gated estates, the authors investigate perceived and actual security. They find that modern gated communities managed as residential clubs significantly lower the actual risk of theft and burglary, but that the vast majority of gated community residents believe their estates to be permeable to pedestrians. In another empirical study, they use spatial analysis to measure the degree of actual pedestrian impermeability caused by gates and walls and go on to estimate the social gain achieved by removing the gates. Since residents think that their estates are more permeable than they are, the authors speculate that a degree of ungating, as in a Chinese government recent policy statement, could reduce social costs of spatial partitioning without imposing significant private losses through higher crime risk.