Urban China has undergone seismic change in its physical and socioeconomic landscape over the last four decades. Urban life in Mao’s China was simply an extension of the regime’s faith in the superiority of teleological planning, and Chinese cities were given a central role in the socialist industrialization programme. All aspects of urban existence were organized along the imperative of production. Urban architectural landscapes were characterized by buildings of monotonous design and prosaic outlook. The ethos of egalitarianism inherent in Soviet practices and the functionality logic of Le Corbusier’s modernist principles of design determined the allocation of space. Scarcity was permanent, with the rationing system effectively restricting personal consumption to subsistence level, lest excessive personal indulgence misappropriate resources for unproductive purposes and thus decelerate the pace of the industrialization programme. Urban life was in general highly organized, disciplined and mundane, with expression of individuality severely circumscribed by politics and material conditions. Yet most urban dwellers probably felt blessed with their ‘privilege’ of residing in the cities, aware as they were of the deprivation and desperation of the Chinese peasantry. The concomitant operation of centralized control over employment through the work unit system (danwei) and the unified job allocation arrangement, and the effective regulation of personal movement through the residential permit system (hukou), powerfully sustained the impermeability of the rural-urban divide.
Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson
The impact of urban planning on urbanization in China has been dramatic in the thirty years since the beginning of reform and opening in 1979. Using a theoretical framework of planning culture, this chapter introduces the structure and features of China’s planning system, unravels its function within and beyond the system, and then discusses new approaches to developing plans. The basic components of China’s planning system include the legal system, standards system, and plan system, which support each other to guide urban development consistent with planning visions. The rationale for planning in China is to protect collective interests and public goods. The vision is delivered top down through China’s governmental and planning hierarchy. Because master plans play a significant role in developing urban visions within the hierarchy, this chapter describes a paradigm shift in Shanghai’s vision new 2040 Master Plan in which Shanghai envisions itself as a global city.
In relevant academic works in China, the concept of ‘land-based finance’ includes various land-centred financing approaches and mortgage patterns derived from state-dominated processes in funding urban development. The impacts of local government authorities on urban development and planning are more decisive than those in other countries. Local prefectural municipalities take dual roles of both land use regulator and land user, which incorporated all the institutional settings and approaches of ‘land-based finance’. This chapter is divided into two parts. The first part rests on the institutional background review of ‘land-based finance’ in China. The author reviews the institutional reforms, restructurings and adjustments, which shaped the fundamental framework of land-centred urban development in local China. After that, the author moves to prefectural level, focusing on two of the most important local institutional settings in charge of manipulating ‘land-finance’. In the second part, a four-component framework of land-based finance has been developed to elaborate not only different stages and processes in ‘land-based finance’, but also their inter-connections and input-output analyses. The split stages and processes are to provide a detailed map of how land-based revenue generation drives urban development.
Kam Wing Chan
This paper presents a retrospective analysis of China’s hukou (household registration) system on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of its promulgation, reviewing the history of that system from a broad socio-political perspective and highlighting the continuity and change. The paper focuses also on identifying many of its important ramifications for modern Chinese society, as well as on the impact of the hukou on the country’s industrialization, urbanization, and social and spatial stratification. The paper argues that despite all the reforms in the last four decades, the hukou system remains a major obstacle to China’s quest to become a modern, first-world nation and global leader. More forceful measures to change and gradually abolish the system are urgently needed.
Since the commercialization of housing in urban China, a dynamic housing market has replaced the pre-reform communist housing provision. With urban districts and suburbs springing up with new apartments, urban dwellers have seen consistent improvements in housing conditions despite a dramatic increase in the urban population. Property development has become the main impetus for China’s economic boom; and the housing market, which stores more than 70 per cent of household wealth, is likewise a major speculative tool that redistributes capital and redirects unearned income. This chapter examines the development and transformation of the three distinct sections of municipal housing – work-unit housing provided under the pre-reform system, remnants of peri-urban villages engulfed by expanding cities, and prevailing commercial properties that have emerged to redefine urban living. The three types of housing create a spatial and historical collage of urban residential and social space. While initially serving distinct social groups, the diverse housing market shapes and consolidates the stratification of the urban population who may or may not benefit from housing wealth appreciation.
Bo Miao and Graeme Lang
How can Chinese cities become more sustainable while pursuing urbanization? And what are the key components for building low carbon sustainable Chinese cities? Public support and political leadership for action to increase energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions are important to implement policies and practices that can make a substantial difference in a city’s performance. This chapter reviews some of the kinds of publicizing, organizing, support and joint policy-development that have occurred in various cities, thus producing a menu of strategies for Chinese cities. We then analyse why ‘climate change’ is not an appropriate term for pursue sustainability and briefly examine popular campaigns like building green city, garden city, low-carbon city, eco-city, sustainable city in China, and find that none of these grandiose attempts have produced a solid record. Finally, we present some more powerful master-themes such as ‘resilience’ and ‘sustainability which are capable of encompassing and further justifying the policies which would reduce GHG emissions and contribute to the achievement of ‘low-carbon’ cities in China.
This chapter traces the history of the spectacular transformations that have remade the city of Beijing in the years leading to the hosting of the 2008 Olympics. It examines the use of mega-events as a tool of state promotion, an instrument of urban image construction and an alibi for urban socio-spatial restructuring, in ways that accelerate the marketization of the urban landscape and exacerbate socio-spatial polarization. The chapter revisits the notion of the spectacle as a technique of governance and argues for its continued relevance as a powerful conceptual tool for analysing structures of power, revealing how they co-opt the material landscape to build, consolidate and reproduce their hegemony. The chapter thus demonstrates the way in which the state and the market coexist in the form of the spectacle as a way of regulating society. It considers issues of social justice, inequality and exclusion in the beautification of the city’s social and physical landscape, through the conspicuous use of architecture, the construction of spectacular spaces of consumption and the use of social reform and disciplining programmes, which seek to transform the city’s human environment and to eliminate visible traces of poverty and decay.
Since the late 1970s, the post-Mao economic transition has led to rapid urbanization and a profound restructuring of cities and city-regions in China. This chapter reviews the trajectory of China’s post-1978 urbanization and explores the shifting patterns of urban and regional development within the country’s changing political and economic context. It aims to understand how the complex relationship between globalization, marketization and state intervention has constantly (re)shaped urban and regional transformation in the Chinese context, and to reveal the geographical diversity of this transformation. The key argument is that cities and city-regions in China are a material expression of the state’s economic development ideologies and strategies. The transformation of cities and city-regions in the era of globalization should be examined by looking at the combination of their existing, path-dependent economic basis, their available, unique local assets and, critically, their positions in the state’s strategic spatial development choices and urbanization policies.
While urban public space has been systematically conceptualized and theorized in Western scholarship, the ways in which it has acted as a system of ideologies, values, practices and meanings in modern Chinese cities remain poorly understood and theorized. This chapter attempts to develop a tentative conceptualization of urban publicness in modern China, by tracing its meaning-loaded, yet contested trajectory of evolution from the late Qing period until the post-socialist present. It does so by working out a comprehensive, but critical and reflexive, synthesis of academic work on public space in modern Chinese cities in both Chinese and English languages. It argues that for the notion of public space to be more relevant to cities beyond the West, its conceptualization needs to extend beyond the normative underpinnings of civic and political ideals.
This chapter discusses the urban structure of China’s post-reform cities arguing that it constitutes a form of enclave urbanism: an urban structure with high degrees of cultural, functional and economic sorting of groups and activities over distinct areas, separated by physical, legal and/or social boundaries. Reproducing forms of in- and exclusion, this structure has many similarities with the structure of cities elsewhere. However, criticizing five often-implicit assumptions of the enclave urbanism literature, this chapter employs Manuel DeLanda’s (2016) assemblage theory to understand enclaves as assemblages of heterogeneous elements that are themselves part of multiple assemblages operating on various ‘scales’. The resulting relational comparative view guides attention to both similarities and differences between enclaves in different locales. Applying this view, this chapter first presents the literature on China’s urban enclaves, before discussing consequences of China’s enclave urbanism for the access to and exclusion from urban services, and for social networks respectively. Observing inadequacies in the Anglophone urban China literature, the chapter culminates in a research agenda.