China and its migrants: the conquest of a citizenship

CP20144-32-Florence-COUVÉric Florence, « Chloé Froissart, La Chine et ses migrants. La conquête d’une citoyenneté (China and its migrants: the conquest of a citizenship), », China Perspectives, 2014/4 | 2014, URL : http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/6596

La Chine et ses migrants. La conquête d’une citoyenneté (China and its migrants: the conquest of a citizenship) is a major work, and along with Dorothy Solinger’s Contesting Citizenship in Urban China (1999) constitutes the most complete and solidly documented scientific study of rural migrants in the People’s Republic of China, of public policies concerning them, and of the dynamics of their relations with the Party-state. Based on a doctoral thesis, the book examines to what extent the enduring presence of migrant workers in post-Maoist China’s urban areas, and the increasingly important role they play there, have led to a redefinition of criteria for social and political affiliations. In other words, how has the Party-State transformed itself so as to preserve the basis of its power while allowing the partial integration of a social group whose politico-institutional domination is increasingly reflected in rising social, ideological, and economic contradictions? The perspective adopted is resolutely dynamic, perceiving social change as the result of interactions and conflicts between the state and society. The author, a senior lecturer at the University of Rennes 2, documents in detail not only the process of transformation of public policies relating to the management and integration of migrant populations in cities, but also migrants’ practices, norms, and representations vis-à-vis the state and Chinese society.

The work is structured in five parts. In the first, Chloé Froissart offers a genealogy of the concept of citizenship and its mobilisation in the Chinese context. She contrasts the universalist conception inherited from the Enlightenment, by which “the citizen is an abstract subject of laws, implying civic, political, and legal equality of individuals,” with the Maoist one brimming with the notion of a special political and socio-economic determination of individuals’ rights and duties (p. 45). As a framework for interpreting society-state relations, the author offers the dialectic of this dual vision of citizenship that continues to inform the Communist Party’s actions. While Chapter 1 shows that Maoist era ideology and political struggles constitute an inescapable presupposition for interpreting the reach of the constitution and laws of the People’s Republic of China, Chapter 2 documents the role and effects of the “residency permit” (hukou) administrative system that has defined individual-state relations since the 1950s, establishing a system of statuses linked to one’s position in the productive system, local inscription, and political status, and invalidating “the apparent universality of Chinese laws” (pp. 45-46).

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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