Thesis defense by Yang Chen 楊辰

« Mutations sociales et transformations spatiales des quartiers ouvriers de Shanghai (1949-2010). Le cas de la cité ouvrière de Caoyang »

Inside estate N.1, Caoyang, June 2009. Photo credit: Yang Chen. All rights reserved.

Yang Chen will defend his thesis on “Social changes and spatial transformations of working-class neighborhoods of Shanghai (1949-2010): the case of Caoyang city”, at  the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)  –  190-198 avenue de France, salle 1  –  75013 Paris, on October 16th 2012 at 2.30 p.m.

  • Thesis advisor: François Gipouloux (CNRS)
  • Thesis committee: Françoise Ged (Observatoire de l’architecture de Chine contemporaine), Roland Lin Chih-Hung (CREOPS-Unesco), Isabelle Thireau (CNRS-EHESS), Alain Viaro (Université de Genève)

After establishing political power in 1949, the Government of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), inspired by the Soviet model, established a system involving a centrally planned economy and a policy of industrialization. The working class was therefore considered to be a new privileged class in Chinese society. To better serve industry and the working class, in 1951 the government of Shanghai launched a project for the construction of workers’ housing called “workers’ new estates” (Gongren Xincun, GRXC). Our study focuses on three aspects of GRXC (based on the example of Caoyang city):

  1. the economic, social and political contexts surrounding the birth of these workers’ new estates during the early years of the new regime;
  2.  the spatial and social construction of Caoyang city from the 1950s to the 1990s;
  3. the changes that have taken place in Caoyang city since the late 1990s.

Throughout these three chronological sections, we will stress that the birth and evolution of GRXC was not merely a matter of constructing workers’ housing; instead it was an integral part of this historical period of sixty years of social transformation in Shanghai. Through investment, construction, distribution and management of the workers’ new estates, the CCP strived not only to establish a system of public housing and to redesign urban space but also to develop two social administrative systems (work units and resident committees) and to create a social identity for the new socialist workers. Above all, it also defined the relationship between the state, the work unit and the workers in the era of socialism. Despite the current social context (degradation of the work unit system, privatization of public housing and urban renewal) since the1990s, the residents of the workers’ new estates who have in unstable work situations and suffer from poverty still maintain, as they always did, a close relationship with their community, the resident committee and the local government.

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Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Jacqueline Nivard (October 8, 2012). Thesis defense by Yang Chen 楊辰. URBACHINA. Retrieved July 18, 2024 from

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