Category Archives: Cities

Neighborhood politics in urban China

Tomba, Luigi (2014). The government next door : neighborhood politics in urban China. Ithaca : Cornell university press. 240 p. ISBN : 978-0-8014-5282-6.

80140100835180MChinese residential communities are places of intense governing and an arena of active political engagement between state and society. In The Government Next Door, Luigi Tomba investigates how the goals of a government consolidated in a distant authority materialize in citizens’ everyday lives. Chinese neighborhoods reveal much about the changing nature of governing practices in the country. Government action is driven by the need to preserve social and political stability, but such priorities must adapt to the progressive privatization of urban residential space and an increasingly complex set of societal forces. Tomba’s vivid ethnographic accounts of neighborhood life and politics in Beijing, Shenyang, and Chengdu depict how such local “translation” of government priorities takes place.

Tomba reveals how different clusters of residential space are governed more or less intensely depending on the residents’ social status; how disgruntled communities with high unemployment are still managed with the pastoral strategies typical of the socialist tradition, while high-income neighbors are allowed greater autonomy in exchange for a greater concern for social order. Conflicts are contained by the gated structures of the neighborhoods to prevent systemic challenges to the government, and middle-class lifestyles have become exemplars of a new, responsible form of citizenship. At times of conflict and in daily interactions, the penetration of the state discourse about social stability becomes clear.

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Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Second homes in Hainan (I): reducing dependency.

As noted in a previous post, the second home phenomenon in China is quite different from the one in Western countries. Most of them are not exactly holiday homes, but are bought for other purposes. On exception may be Hainan: the southern island is presented as a major tourist destination and so the island has attracted thousands of Mainlanders who wish to spend a few weeks per year under the sun. But second home acquisitions in Hainan are also motivated by speculation. Per consequence, this phenomenon needs be carefully scrutinized by local authorities, and more actions should be taken to reduce the local dependency to the real estate sector.

In the past, in the early years of reforms, Hainan was doomed by real estate speculation and this partly caused the economic turmoil the island experienced in the late 90’s.

Since then, the island has been recovering thanks to the development of tourism.  With tourism and the rising of Chinese middle-class, second homes have appeared in Hainan. According to Wang Xiaoxiaà in in 2006, 25,000 second homes could be found Haikou1.

In 2010 was launched an ambitious plan to transform Hainan into an international destination by 2020. This decision boosted the housing sector on the island, but for fear of overheating, the local government limited the number of acquisitions one may purchased in Hainan. In spite of these measures, the island experienced a strong increase of real estate prices, and Sanya, Hainan’s main resort city, has become the 5th most expensive Chinese city.

For the local authorities, real estate and construction have gradually become their main financial resources. For the first semester 2014, more than one third of the provincial GDP was produced by real estate, this figure reached nearly three-fourths in Sanya2.

This causes the whole economy of Hainan to be very dependent on real estate.  And the bad news is that real estate in Hainan is very volatile and speculative. Most real estate programmes do not answer local housing demands but target wealthy Mainlanders, and since the beginning of this year, sales have started to drop.

This should drive the local government of Hainan to reconsider its strategy and diversify the island’s economic activities.

————

I have studied this aspect of the development of tourism in Hainan in my Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Les politiques de développement regional d’une zone périphérique chinoise, le cas de la province de Hainan (Regional development policies in a Chinese peripheral region: the case of Hainan province). This dissertation was defended on December, 18, 2014, and will soon be available online.

  1. WANG Xiaoxiao (2006), The second home phenomenon in Haikou, Master thesis, University of Waterloo, Canada. Retreived December 20, 2015 from http://etd.uwaterloo.ca/etd/x42wang2006.pdf []
  2. DOI, Noriyuki (2014), ‘Chinese housing prices still sliding’, Nikkei Asian review, August, 24. Retreived September 20, 2014 from http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Chinese-housing-prices-still-sliding []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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A simple scan gives Beijing metro users access to a mini library

Beijing’s first underground library “M Subway•Library” is open. [Photo/mtr.bj.cn]

China’s capital city launched its first underground library, “M Subway•Library” on Jan 12. The theme of its first activity is “Our Characters”.

Citizens riding the special train on subway Line 4 now can read e-books provided by the National Library by scanning the QR code in the carriage.

“M Subway•Library” is a public welfare program initiated by the Beijing MTR and the National Library to provide qualified book resources to the public through the platform of public transportation. The library will organize different themed activities regularly and recommend a dozen free books to the public each year in the long term.

Read on China Daily

Beijing launches ‘Subway Library’

With 10 million passengers every day, the Beijing subway system has huge potential as a place for promotion or even a new lifestyle. The “Subway Library,” which has just opened on Line 4 of the underground, encourages people to take advantage of their time on the trains to read more books.

Read more and see the videos on Chin.org.cn

China: Beijing metro users access free e-books

Finding something to read on the underground just got a bit easier in Beijing, where travellers can now access a free electronic library.

Carriages on Line 4 of the city’s metro feature barcodes which people can scan with their tablets or smartphones, China’s BTV News channel reports. They’ll be able to choose from a selection of ten books, which will change every couple of months. The first books available are about historical Chinese texts. “I think we have found a great, effective and handy tool to make traditional culture popular,” says Rong Jun, a spokesman from the city government, which is supporting the initiative along with the National Library.

Read more on BBC.News.com

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Street art in Beijing

Robbbb has only been working as a street artist for three years but identifies his role as helping to document the rapidly changing urban and social environment in Beijing. It is among the cities crumbling ruins that he feels his work belongs – “Ruins are temporary [and] so are my works but I hope they’ll leave some mark in Beijing’s history”.

At present there is no specific law against street art in China but he believes this will change in the near future as people, and the authorities, begin to understand the subversive element of the movement.

To see more of the artist’s work, visit his website HERE.


http://www.crane.tv/robbbb-among-the-ruins

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Nested maps

Nested maps: reality representation as a first action against easement process

Marlène Leroux is preparing a Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Densifying rural territories: China, from massive growth patterns to more sustainable urban planning” under the supervision of Prof. I Devanthéry-Lamunière (EPFL) and Prof. J.C. Bolay (Unesco Chair, CODEV)

The author’s doctoral research is primarily focused on analysing the issue of rural urbanisation as a key sustainable development challenge based on the conviction that rural areas today must be studied on their own account and no longer simply understood as the counterpart to urban areas1.

In China, vast rural areas are currently undergoing “modernisation” via the application of a generic, expansive urban model. This modernisation is evidenced in the creation of new towns and road infrastructures a process that simultaneously homogenises the complex reality of both rural practices and regional characteristics, flying in the face of natural resource availability and significant climatic and cultural disparities2. This forced coexistence of urban models conceived ex-nihilo (top-down) and the reality of a rural area (bottom-up) generates interactions and major tensions, too.

This post will draw on one of our case studies: the modernisation currently under way on Chengdu Plain. This area is a major agricultural production centre that functions with a mixed traditional rural system and industrial activity, supported by a dense fabric of rural villages(linban) spread across the territory. The region is currently undergoing transformation and urbanisation on a massive scale a process that has been amplified by the need for reconstruction following the devastating earthquake of May 2008 (7.8 on the Richter scale). This is a region that has experienced major human and material losses; its modernisation and reconstruction are a response to economic, social and political challenges.

Analysis of the “nested” maps allows us to observe the reality of a region at a given time and different scales. The first sample represents a region with a diameter of 500 km around the area of study i.e. a surface area of 200,000 km2 (20 m ha). This allows us to locate our case study on the national scale (proximity to major urban hubs, industrial centres, major communication routes, etc.) and also in terms of major landscape features (coastal areas, mountain chains, major rivers, etc.). It should be noted that 250 km is the distance that can be travelled in all day’s journey; in our view the impact of elements beyond this distance is no longer related to their geographic proximity.

Leroux_illustration

The 100 km sample, i.e. a radius of 50 km around the area of study, allows analysis at a more local scale, situating the study zone within its more immediate context. Yet on this scale it is the network of waterways connected with the irrigation system that comes to the fore. The Min river, which has its source at the end of the Himalayas chain, divides into channels which fan out across the whole of the plain. From the original riverbed, the river is divided to obtain a fine network of irrigation channels. Thanks to the central Chinese subtropical climate (humidity, heat) a wide variety of crops can be grown and cropping frequency is high. The soil, which has always been fertile, is constantly enriched by sediments carried in the river water. This exceptional irrigation system gives the region its distinctive identity and has defined the way the area has developed for hundreds of years.

Finally, the 2 km sample covers the micro-local context, on a scale appropriate to walking and “soft” mobility. This scale permits precise observations of relations between the built environment, farms, fields and forests, allowing us to begin the process of identifying and classifying the elements that constitute the reality of the Chinese rural condition.

The first step would be to consider these emerging areas in a more positive light and to look for ways of optimising them, ways of integrating the existing infrastructures with new development projects. This means engaging with the reality of the rural areas concerneda reality located somewhere between [idealised] memories of a sophisticated rural idyll and megacity fantasies. Just as we inventorise our built heritage (listing, classifying and grading historic monuments) or even disused railway sites3), every element of the landscape, every rural infrastructure, every local custom should first of all be identified, catalogued and documented and then (as the second phase of the process) be given a value. These gradings would correspond to specific rules and procedures to be observed. The aim is not to depict a rural landscape that is frozen in time but to create a series of diagnostic tools and frameworks for action. Having been recorded and valued in this way, the topography, the water system, the paths, walls, the waste disposal sites greenhouses, vegetable gardens, could be preserved, reused or destroyed but at any rate they have been taken into account. The design decisions resulting from this process are then taken in view of the facts and not as a consequence of deliberate, convenient oversight.

This process of classifying rural territories, following a methodology as sophisticated as that used for urban areas, should be carried out using appropriate representational methods. The tools for this diagnostic process have yet to be devised, yet the process of innovation is already underway4. Only once these diagnostic tools are in place will it be possible to establish strategies for developing urban scenarios that are sustainable, realistic and practicable, via the creation of new planning tools5. These planning tools would need to be able to take national aspirations and ambitions into account while at the same time optimising local resources. The futures of urban areas and rural areas are inescapably intertwined. Prospective analysis of the globalisation phenomenon from the perspective of rural areas is crucial here: these rural areas may contain within themselves the potential to shape new identities, enabling China to generate a new, integrated model of regional intervention that will be absolutely vital in the long term6.

  1. Woods, M. (2010), Rural, Andover, Taylor& Francis []
  2. Friedman, J. (2005), China’s Urban Transition, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press []
  3. Devanthéry-Lamunière, I. (2008 []
  4. Vigano, P. (2012), Les territoires de l’urbanisame, Genève, Métispresse []
  5. Mostafavi, M., Doherty, G. (2010), Ecological urbanism, Baden, Lars Muller Publishers []
  6. Hassenflug, D.  (2010), The urban code of China, Bâle, Birkhauser []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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The elites’ former houses in Beijing’s South Luogu Lane

Zhifen Cheng, Hangyi Zhou, and Stephen Young,  The elites’ former houses in Beijing’s South Luogu Lane, Sustainability 2015, 7(1), 398-421; doi:10.3390/su7010398

Abstract

Place is seen as a process whereby social and cultural forms are reproduced. This process is closely linked to capital flows, which are, in turn, shaped by changing property regimes. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the relationship between property regimes, capital flows and place-making. The goal of this paper is to highlight the role of changing property regimes in the production of place. Our research area is South Luogu Lane (SLL) in Central Beijing. We take elites’ former houses in SLL as the main unit of analysis in this study. From studying this changing landscape, we draw four main conclusions. First, the location of SSL was critical in enabling it to emerge as a high-status residential community near the imperial city. Second, historical patterns of capital accumulation influenced subsequent rounds of private investment into particular areas of SLL. Third, as laws relating to the ownership of land and real estate changed fundamentally in the early 1950s and again in the 1980s, the target and intensity of capital flows into housing in SLL changed too. Fourth, these changes in capital flow are linked to ongoing changes in the place image of SLL.

Read the full text :  http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/7/1/398/htm#sthash.mR60mj6C.dpuf

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Invisible migrant enclaves in Chinese cities

Huang, Youqin, Yi Chengdong. (2014) Invisible migrant enclaves in Chinese cities : Underground living in Beijing, China. Urban Studies. Pre-published online, December 22, 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0042098014564535

China is experiencing an urban revolution, powered in part by hundreds of millions of migrant workers. Faced with institutionalised discrimination in the housing system and the lack of housing affordability, migrants have turned to virtually uninhabitable spaces such as basements and civil air defence shelters for housing. With hundreds of thousands of people living in crowded and dark basements, an invisible migrant enclave exists underneath the modern city of Beijing. We argue that in Chinese cities, housing has been adopted as an institution to exclude and marginalise migrants, through: (a) defining migrants as an inferior social class through the Hukou system and denying their rights to entitlements including housing; (b) abnormalising migrants through various derogatory naming and categorisations to legitimise exclusion; and (c) purifying and controlling migrant spaces to achieve exclusion and marginalisation. The forced popularity of basement renting reflects the reality that housing has become an institution of exclusion and marginalisation. It embodies vertical spatial marginalisation, with exacerbated contrasts between basement tenants and urban residents, heightened fear of the ‘other’, even more derogatory naming, and the government’s more aggressive clean-up of their spaces. We call for reforms and policy changes to ensure decent and affordable housing for basement tenants and migrants in general.

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Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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What will happen to Uber in China?

Tea Leaf Nation 01.08.15

Ride-sharing app Uber has expanded around the world at a blistering pace, launching in a new city every one or two days. At first glance, China would appear the ideal fit for the Silicon Valley startup. Most urban residents in the world’s second-largest economy rely on sclerotic local taxi monopolies whose numbers have failed to match the country’s breakneck urbanization: the population of the capital Beijing, for example, has grown by nearly 50 percent to 20 million in the past ten years, while its taxi fleet of 66,000 remains the same size it was in 2003. The potential for a better way to get around town is clearly immense.

But on December 23, Uber suffered a setback when local authorities raided its office in the large southern city of Chongqing, a sign the company may encounter regulatory scrutiny in China similar to what it has encountered in other countries. Uber’s Chongqing travails initially appear to be yet another case in the recent string of large foreign firms finding themselves in the crosshairs of Chinese regulators—often to the benefit of domestic champions. It may come as a surprise, then, that Uber’s local competitors have come in for their share of official scrutiny as well.

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Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Recalling life in the alleyways


Harvard University Assistant Professor Jie Li’s recent book, “Shanghai Homes:Palimpsests of Private Life,” is a micro history and memoir that collects the stories of generations living in two Shanghai longtang (lane).

Assistant professor Jie Li at Harvard University still remembers the two old women living downstairs who often argued over the communal kitchen, although she has been living in the United States for more than two decades.

Part of her childhood, it happened in an alleyway in today’s Yangpu District in northeast Shanghai, called You Bang Li. Out of a sense of nostalgia, Li published a book this year about the people and events that went on in the alleyways of Shanghai.

She came back to her home city last week to speak about her book to Historic Shanghai, an organization founded by expats that studies the city’s history. The book, “Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life,” is a micro history and memoir that collects the stories of generations living in two Shanghai longtang (lane) during various periods.

The book is available in Shanghai bookstore.

Post by  Lu Feiran | December 12, 2014 Read the full text on Shanghai daily.com (B

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Shanghai as a city of juxtapositions

Jeffrey Wasserstrom (2014) , Shanghai as a City of Juxtapositions  Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, Volume 5, Number 3, Winter, p. 371-374 | 10.1353/hum.2014.0028 Available on Project Muse.

Abstract

Shanghai has long been seen as a city of juxtapositions, a reputation that first took hold when it was divided into foreign-run and Chinese-run districts in the nineteenth century. More recently, though, it has become an open question as to whether the most striking juxtapositions in the metropolis relate to cultural difference or chronology. This essay explores this theme, paying particular attention to how, in the twenty-first century, its people sometimes see Shanghai as a meeting point between the past, the present, and the future.

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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‘My generation had it all easy’

Zavoretti, Roberta. (2014) ‘My generation had it all easy’: accounts of anxiety and social order in post-Mao Nanjing. Cambridge Anthropology, 32(2), pp. 49-64. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/ca.2014.320206

In urban China, young people are under increasing pressure to embody the ideal of a financially secure ‘match’. At the same time, their parents define marriage as ‘a family matter’ and provide a large part of the starting fund for their children’s new family. This situation often leads to inter-generational tensions, which can be fully appreciated only by looking back at the life experiences of the parents. Many members of this older generation were displaced to the countryside to ‘learn from the peasant masses’. In their accounts of those times, marriage was a troubling issue as most of them did not want to marry villagers for fear of getting stuck in the countryside. The anxieties of the old and new generations seem to be underpinned by policies promoted by state and market respectively; however, informants point to the state as the main source of responsibility for both change and continuity.

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Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Fudan launches online platform for researching findings in social sciences

dvnPoweredByLogoBy Yang Meiping | December 30, 2014, Tuesday | Shanghai Daily Online Edition

Fudan University officially launches an online platform to store social sciences data this afternoon and is inviting individuals, organizations and governmental institutions around the world to publish and share research findings on it.

All published data can be found for free at http://dvn.fudan.edu.cn.The platform is developed in cooperation with Harvard University’s Dataverse Network. Registered users can also apply to authors via the platform for information not fully publicized, Fudan said.

The platform has been tested since June with 1,377 data sets stored by Fudan researchers and 57 now completely open to the public.

More researching findings are expected to appear after its official launch, the school said.

http://dvn.fudan.edu.cn/dvn/

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Which type of urbanization better matches China’s factor endowment

Wen, Guanzhong James and Jinwu Xiong. (2013) Which type of urbanization better matches China’s factor endowment : a comparison of population-intensive Old Puxi and Land-Capital-Intensive New Pudong. Frontiers of Economics in China, 8(4), pp. 516-534. URL: http://journal.hep.com.cn/fec/EN/10.3868/s060-002-013-0026-2 (Retrieved 10 December 2014)

Based on a comparative study of New-Pudong (East Shanghai) and Old-Puxi (West Shanghai) in their respective ability to absorb rural migrants, the very essence of urbanization, this paper finds that, constrained by the current hukou (household registration) system and land tenure system, although New-Pudong has emerged as one of the most modernized urban areas in the world, it did so under an urbanization model that is government-dominant and characterized by high land-intensity and capital-intensity. This model represents a serious mismatch in terms of China’s factor endowment that is characterized with a large but relatively poor rural population. In sharp contrast, guided by the market mechanism under private land ownership and free migration, Old-Puxi emerged as an urbanization model that was very adaptable to China’s factor endowment and stage of development. Therefore, as a model of endogenous urbanization, Old-Puxi is more efficient and inclusive, at the same time more sustainable economically and environmentally, and for this reason more applicable to China at a time when China needs to urbanize most of its rural population urgently to avoid the further worsening of the rural/urban divide and income disparity.

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Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Social stress, locality of social ties and mental well-being

Nicole W.T. Cheung (2014) Social stress, locality of social ties and mental well-being: The case of rural migrant adolescents in urban China Department of Sociology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong. Health & Place Volume 27, May 2014, p. 142–154
By comparing rural migrant and urban native adolescents in Guangzhou, the largest city in south China, this study investigated the relationships between social stress, social ties that link migrants to their host cities (local ties) and to their rural home communities (trans-local ties), and the migrants׳ mental well-being. Non-migration social stress was more strongly related to poor psychological health than to weak self-efficacy in both migrant and urban native adolescents. This pattern also applied to the effect of migration-specific assimilation stress on psychological health and self-efficacy in migrants. Social ties directly enhanced these two well-being outcomes in both samples, with the effects of trans-local and local ties proving equally potent among migrants. Trans-local ties were somewhat more useful for migrants in moderating the effects of non-migration social stress and assimilation stress, whereas the stress moderation function of social ties was less pronounced in urban natives. These findings extend the migration, network and social stress literature by identifying how local and trans-local ties protect mental health and mitigate stress in migrants.

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Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Urban spatial restructuring, event-led development and scalar politics

Hyun Bang Shin (2014) Urban spatial restructuring, event-led development and scalar politics. Urban Studies, November 2014 vol. 51 no. 14. DOI:10.1177/0042098013515031.

This paper uses Guangzhou’s experience of hosting the 2010 Asian Games to illustrate Guangzhou’s engagement with scalar politics. This includes concurrent processes of intra-regional restructuring to position Guangzhou as a central city in south China and a ‘negotiated scale-jump’ to connect with the world under conditions negotiated in part with the overarching strong central state, testing the limit of Guangzhou’s geopolitical expansion. Guangzhou’s attempts were aided further by using the Asian Games as a vehicle for addressing condensed urban spatial restructuring to enhance its own production/accumulation capacities, and for facilitating urban redevelopment projects to achieve a ‘global’ appearance and exploit the city’s real estate development potential. Guangzhou’s experience of hosting the Games provides important lessons for expanding our understanding of how regional cities may pursue their development goals under the strong central state and how event-led development contributes to this.

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Author’s personal website: http://urbancommune.net/

Miguel Elosua

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

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