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 24: Neighbourhood governance through community social work

Mun Young Cho


In this chapter, I intend to examine the workings of urban governance by focusing on the emerging industry of social work and its practices in neighbourhood governance. The explosive development of social work in cities in China raises a question of its role in the party-state’s ongoing project of ‘community building.’ What does it mean that social workers, who belong to non-governmental social work organizations, are invited as key agents of ‘community,’ which emerged as a new mode of governing urban space in place of the collapsed work-unit system? Fieldwork in southern and northeast cities unveils that regional historicity as well as local finance differentiates the actual practices of community social work. Ethnographic research in a Shenzhen’s Foxconn town reveals how the government purchase of social work services has refashioned ‘community’ as a selectively participatory, technically preoccupied, and politically acceptable site while leading to the resilient expansion of state influence.

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