Handbook on Urban Development in China
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Handbook on Urban Development in China

Edited by Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson

The trajectory and logic of urban development in post-Mao China have been shaped and defined by the contention between domestic and global capital, central and local state and social actors of different class status and endowment. This urban transformation process of historic proportion entails new rules for distribution and negotiation, novel perceptions of citizenship, as well as room for unprecedented spontaneity and creativity. Based on original research by leading experts, this book offers an updated and nuanced analysis of the new logic of urban governance and its implications.
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Chapter 22: ‘Urban neighbourhood communities’ (shequ) as new institutions of urban governance

Thomas Heberer


This article shows that with the reorganization of urban neighborhood community administration as well as the implementation of new participatory mechanisms, the Chinese one-party state attempts to strengthen both its social and political control and political legitimacy. This occurs partially through participation mobilized “from above”. In the urban space, the establishment of new forms of social control and social security is prioritized with the goal of generating social stability. Participation itself is not the aim; it should instead serve as a means to achieving these goals. Therefore, in this article rather the reestablishment of social security and control are viewed as endeavors on the part of the party-state to create legitimacy. Participation including elections appear here merely as a secondary effect. In addition, the party-state acts as a political architect, creating structures top-down that appear to fit with communitarian and civil society structures; they are however built upon an authoritarian foundation. The latter is conceived by the author as “authoritarian communitarianism”.

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