Author Archives: Miguel Elosua

About Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

Neglect of a neighbourhood: oral accounts of life in ‘old Beijing’ since the eve of the People’s Republic

Neglect of a neighbourhood: oral accounts of life in ‘old Beijing’ since the eve of the People’s Republic. Paper written by Harriet Evans (2014), Urban History, Volume 41, Issue04, November 2014 pp 686-704.

ABSTRACT

Oral accounts of life over seven decades in Dashalanr, a popular neighbourhood in central Beijing, reveal a social world that despite being shaped by the state’s policies of social and political classification, housing and employment, has been resistant to complete appropriation by them. Based on research in the neighbourhood since 2005, and drawing on Xuanwu District archives, this article examines local residents’ accounts of long decades of hardship and neglect. With an analytical framework that links gender with temporality, place and space, it suggests ways in which their singular experiences can be read as historical narrative.

Please click here to read the article (access restricted): http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=9357383

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Transitional Property Rights and Local Developmental History in China

Paper written by Daniel Abramson, Journal of Urban Studies, 48:553, SAGE (2011). DOI: 10.1177/0042098010390237

Abstract

Among the societies that are moving from a centrally planned economy with weak property rights towards a market-oriented economy with stronger and more privatised property rights, China is undergoing an especially rapid and extensive urbanisation that obscures the diversity and relevance of local pre-Reform property arrangements. Official discourse emphasises the formalisation, clarification and, to some extent, the privatisation of property rights in the name of overall societal development and gradual integration with the global economy. In local informal, popular practice and discourse, however, the invocation of property rights reflects the continuing political relevance of both revolutionary and traditional notions of rights to urban space that challenge a unitary, linear view of the development process.

Using the rather unique case of Quanzhou (泉州), in the province of Fujian, the second-largest qiaoxiang (侨乡) province after Guangdong, Abramson shows how property rights in this town have been protected throughout China’s turbulent twentieth century thanks in part to the special status overseas Chinese have enjoyed during this time.

Please click here to read the article (access restricted): http://usj.sagepub.com/content/48/3/553

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Urbachina’s WP5 workshop at LSE

LSE2

Stephan Feuchwang, leader of Urbachina’s work package 5 “Urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles” organised a workshop at the London School of Economics and Political Science on 25 and 26 September. During the workshop, the researchers from this team (Zhang Hui, Luo Pan, Wang Xiaoxia, Jude Howell, Paula Morais, and Renate Krieg) shared their findings for discussion and comparison not only with each other, but also with our two scientific advisers who have vast research experience in urban life and planning in China, Dan Abramson and David Bray, and with a number of others who have conducted research on urban life and governance in China and other parts of the world, including Europe.

The task of this work package on ‘urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles’ has been to investigate how new municipal institutions interact with residents, who bring to their urban relocation ways of organising themselves and improvise new ones. The focal topics were urban government, self-government and social sustainability.

Field research was conducted between March 2012 and April 2014 in the four cities selected by the UrbaChina consortium: the two large cities of Shanghai and Chongqing, and the two medium sized cities of Kunming and Huangshan. It is the most extensive systematic research on urban communities, as well as the most recent to date. One of the main results has been the deconstruction of the very conception of community, as a policy concept and an instrument of governance.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Japanese nail house (dingzihu – 钉子户)?

 

Building penetrated by an expressway 001 OSAKA JPN.jpg
Building penetrated by an expressway 001 OSAKA JPN” by ignisOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the last few years, the phenomenon of the “nail house” (dingzi hu – 钉子户) has become rather frequent in China, as land acquisitions are ubiquitous and residents are usually not satisfied with either with the land seizure or the compensation package. Apparently, the term is a pun coined by developers to refer to “nails that are stuck in wood and cannot be pounded down with a hammer”.1 The existence of this phenomenon suggests that the best way for residents to protect the rights to their homes is to make them their stronghold. This course of action, however, is not risk-free, as many sad events have proved over the last few decades of meteoric development.

Reading about nail houses, I came across this photo of the Gate Tower Building in Osaka, also called the Beehive because it always seems busy. A highway passes through its fifth to seventh floors, of which it is the tenant! Cars pass through the building when exiting the highway.

As explained by Wikipedia2:

 “The elevator passes through the floors without stopping: floor 4 being followed by floor 8. The floors through which the highway passes consist of elevators, stairways and machinery. The highway does not make contact with the building. It passes through as a bridge, held up by supports next to the building. The highway is surrounded by a structure to protect the building from noise and vibration.”

However, the building didn’t exist at the time of the construction of the highway. In fact, both constructions were planned almost at the same time, and the property rights’ holder of the planned office building (who was the owner of the land) and the highway corporation negotiated for five years to reach this arrangement. It was facilitated by a reform in regulations allowing for the development of highways and buildings in the same space, something termed “multi-level road system” in its English translation.

I’m not familiar with the Japanese property rights system but I wonder why the government did not seize the land through expropriation. The construction of highways typically meets the requirement of public use. At any rate, the agreement shows a lot of creativity on the part of both parties and the government to make the best use of limited resources without compromising the interests of everyone involved. It’s also a good compromise to avoid the so-called tragedy of the anticommons, which occurs when property rights’ holders can’t reach an agreement and land remains undeveloped.

  1. See article about holdouts on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holdout_(architecture)#Nail_house []
  2. See article about the Gate Tower Building on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_Tower_Building []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: Negotiating the Divide

 

Jeremy Brown (2012). City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: 
Negotiating the Divide. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781107424548.

The gap between those living in the city and those in the countryside remains one of China’s most intractable problems. As this powerful work of grassroots history argues, the origins of China’s rural-urban divide can be traced back to the Mao Zedong era. While Mao pledged to remove the gap between the city worker and the peasant, his revolutionary policies misfired and ended up provoking still greater discrepancies between town and country, usually to the disadvantage of villagers. Through archival sources, personal diaries, untapped government dossiers, and interviews with people from cities and villages in northern China, the book recounts their personal experiences, showing how they retaliated against the daily restrictions imposed on their activities while traversing between the city and the countryside. Vivid and harrowing accounts of forced and illicit migration, the staggering inequity of the Great Leap Famine, and political exile and deportation during the Cultural Revolution reveal how Chinese people fought back against policies that pitted city dwellers against villagers.

For more information about this book: http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/east-asian-history/city-versus-countryside-in-maos-china-negotiating-divide?format=PB?format=PB

Link to book review by Yixin Chen (2013) at The China Quarterly, Volume 214, June 2013 pp 479-480: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=8944098

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Reclaiming the Neighbourhood. Urban redevelopment, citizen activism, and conflicts of recognition in Guangzhou

Bettina Gransow, « Reclaiming the Neighbourhood. Urban redevelopment, citizen activism, and conflicts of recognition in Guangzhou », China Perspectives [Online], 2014/2 | 2014, Online since 01 June 2014, connection on 04 September 2014. URL : http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/6425

This study examines social interventions into the everyday life of residents, families, and communities during a redevelopment project in an old town neighbourhood of Guangzhou. It further analyses how citizen activism unfolds in response to these redevelopment interventions. To better understand contention over the renewal of an old town neighbourhood – beyond negotiation of compensation for economic losses – the study is structured by a recognition-theoretical model of social conflict following Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Managing Migrant Contestation. Land appropriation, intermediate agency, and regulated space in Shenzhen

Edmund W. Cheng. Managing Migrant Contestation. Land appropriation, intermediate agency, and regulated space in Shenzhen. Published in China Perspectives 2014/2: P.27.

This study considers the conditions under which China’s massive internal migration and urbanisation have resulted in relatively governed, less contentious, and yet fragile migrant enclaves. Shenzhen, the hub for rural-urban migration and a pioneer of market reform, is chosen to illustrate the dynamics of spatial contestation in China’s sunbelt. This paper first correlates the socialist land appropriation mechanisms to the making of the factory dormitory and urban village as dominant forms of migrant accommodation. It then explains how and why overt contention has been managed by certain intermediate agencies in the urban villages that have not only provided public goods but also regulated social order. It ends with an evaluation of the fragility of urban villages, which tend to facilitate urban redevelopment at the expense of migrants’ living space. The interplay between socialist institutions and market forces has thus ensured that migrant enclaves are regulated and integrated into the formal city.

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Strategic Modelling: “Building a New Socialist Countryside” in Three Chinese Counties

Anna L. Ahlers and Gunter Schubert (2013). Strategic Modelling: “Building a New Socialist Countryside” in Three Chinese Counties . The China Quarterly, 216, pp 831-849. doi:10.1017/S0305741013001045.

Models, pilots and experiments are considered distinctive features of the Chinese policy process. However, empirical studies on local modelling practices are rare. This article analyses the ways in which three rural counties in three different provinces engage in strategies of modelling and piloting to implement the central government’s “Building a New Socialist Countryside” (shehuizhuyi xinnongcun jianshe) programme. It explains how county and township governments apply these strategies and to what effect. It also highlights the scope and limitations of local models and pilots as useful mechanisms for spurring national development. The authors plead for a fresh look at local modelling practices, arguing that these can tell us much about the realities of governance in rural China today.

  • More information at The China Quarterly: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305741013001045

 

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Midday siesta

Siesta

This photo was taken last April behind the Huguang Guild Hall in Chongqing. Huguang Guild Hall is located in Chaotianmen, an old neighbourhood at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers, which used to be the landing place for boats travelling on both rivers. Now this neighbourhood awaits its demolition. The guild hall, built during the reign of Qianlong, will remain standing while witnessing the high-speed modernization of the neighbourhood. The photo was taken just after lunch, the time of the siesta, a sacred custom in China.

The Chinese treasure the siesta, and devote at least half an hour a day for resting after lunch no matter where they are or what they are doing: white-collars take their pillows to their office and have no qualms falling asleep at desks; university students vanish as they go to their dorms to take a nap just after lunch and before afternoon classes resume. The siesta is regarded as a healthy activity according to Chinese medicine. This is an interesting philosophy when contrasted with the West, where it has almost become a synonym of laziness. Ever since I was a kid, whenever I went abroad, foreigners would tell me about the Spanish “easy” approach to work, something that was apparently related to our devotion to the siesta. In Spain, people have grown increasingly polarized about this topic, and most office workers said adiós to siesta a long time ago. The Chinese, on the contrary, seem to have got away with keeping it, and their reputation as tough workers remains intact despite adhering to this tradition. Also, they all seem to agree on the benefits of a good siesta.

Looking at this lady resting at the entrance of the temple enjoying the coolness provided by the stone walls, one feels inspired to make the best use of the idle afternoons of this summer interlude.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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The race for expansion – Cerdá Year

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Exactly 150 years ago, on the 7th of June 1859, the Plan for Reform and Development of Barcelona was approved. This was the work of Ildefonso Cerdá. The Plan is considered to be a pioneer in the development of modern urbanism. What continues to surprise today is Cerdá’s capacity to predict the protagonistic role which public transport would play in the city.

For more information on the Cerdá Year, please click here: http://www.anycerda.org/eng/

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Reform of the hukou: Not a liberalisation of the rural land market

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This news piece concerns the  hukou reform announced on Wednesday (guowuyuan guanyu jinyibu tuijin huji zhidu gaige de yijian – 院关于一步推籍制度改革的意), which plans to eliminate the anachronistic distinction between agricultural  and non-agricultural registration. From now on, citizens will be classified simply as residents. The report explains that the reform won’t affect a liberalisation of rural land rights that would allow urban residents moving towards rural areas and acquire rural land-use rights, which is illegal up to now. The report explains that the reform won’t affect the “bidirectional flow of people” (shuangxiang liudong – 双向流动), in contrast to the existing legal framework that only permits the “one-way circulation of rural residents towards the city”.

Please click here to watch the report on chinanews.com: http://www.chinanews.com/shipin/2014/06-21/news447205.shtml

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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City scale models and their implications

Maqueta

This photo was taken during UrbaChina’s 4th International Conference, which was held in Chongqing from 28 to 30 May. Attendees paid a visit to the Chongqing Planning Exhibition Gallery. This giant scale model of the city of Chongqing, displays all existing and planned buildings up to 2020. After seeing the scale model and listening to the optimistic presentation, one of the attendees made a very sharp remark observing that such a scale model would be unimaginable in his country, France in this case. He was not talking about the technical difficulty of producing such a model, but to the number of legal questions that would make it virtually impossible to predict the future development of a city in such detail. This scale model not only includes new public spaces that require an expropriation procedure, but also new private developments, condominiums, office buildings, shopping malls, in locations where nowadays probably include only private properties (and collective land). In China, it means that the city agreed many years in advance to expropriate the area of land necessary to carry out this transformation. It means that the local government considers any activity related to urbanisation as able to answer the general interest. It also presupposes that the local government will manage to find the financial resources to undertake the gigantic construction work. Finally, had this been the scale model of a European city, it would also assume that nobody would oppose the urban plan, which is not unusual. Besides, the Courts sometimes decide in favour of the opponents, compelling city planners to modify the plan.

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Urban heroes

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It’s becoming very rare to read about heroic citizens helping out victims in the midst of an aggression. In many Western cities, aggressors act with impunity, perhaps due to increasing judicial leniency, perhaps because aggressions are more and more violent and examples of acts of heroism ending badly abound.

Therefore, I was surprised to learn about this brave 64-year-old Shanghainese bank cleaner, Gu Jinfang, who did not hesitate for a second to wield her mop at a 35-year-old thief, in order to help capturing him. The burglar had run up huge debts betting on the World Cup, and held a hostage with a knife he had just taken from a nearby restaurant. It would be interesting to know about the train of thought or the value system of this amazing woman that led to taking such a bold action against the attacker.

Shanghai is particularly well known for being safe. The concept of a bad neighbourhood should be re-thought altogether since here it has no similarity whatsoever with what we understand by that in the West. On the other hand, Chinese assaulters sometimes remind me of the bicycle thieves in Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece. One can easily be moved by and have an emotional attachment with the assaulter, especially knowing the kind of punishment that he might receive for such an offense.

To see the news footage on CCTV, please click here: http://news.cntv.cn/2014/07/15/VIDE1405422106010328.shtml

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Property Taxation in the People’s Republic of China

Description

The property taxation system in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is still developing and does not include important features that would make it efficient. For instance, residential property is excluded from the tax base. This has contributed to real estate speculation, income disparity, and revenue losses.

A well-functioning local property tax system in the PRC would provide an efficient, equitable and sustainable way to finance local development and government spending. By helping to align expenditure responsibilities with revenue allocations at the local level, property taxation could reduce inequality in the provision of public goods and foster local government ability to provide them. Further, it will reduce the incentive for speculative behavior mitigating housing bubbles.

To further develop property taxation in the PRC it is recommended to gradually strengthen and expand the existing pilots, supported by clear principles on the delegation of taxation responsibilities, the definition of a nationally standardized tax base, an affordable tax rate, and enhanced local government capacity.

This policy note aims at drawing policy recommendations for future developments in property taxation in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by reviewing best international practices and specific challenges in the PRC.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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