The Great Demographic, Spatial, Economic, and Social Transformation
City and countryside in China are not antagonistic but organically blended, containing an integral network of towns (Zhèn) between cities and countries. Towns are neither cities nor counties but a unique settlement type halfway between a city and a county. The noted Chinese sociologist Xiaotong Fei, whose PhD supervisor was anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, considered rural towns a distinct social entity, at a higher level than a rural community—a community mainly composed of a working population not engaged in pure agricultural work (Fei, 2004). Fei considered towns different from rural communities in terms of geography, population, economics, and the environment, but intimately related to the surrounding countryside. Other Chinese scholars agree with Fei that Chinese society is neither urban nor rural, but best conceived as a structure made up of cities, towns, and villages (Gong, 2005).
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