Since 2013, economic and trade relations between China and Europe have grown significantly. In this article, the authors look beyond conventional economic indicators, like trade, and political issues, like human rights, instead focusing on transport infrastructure, real estate and tourism to show that a new page is unfolding in the history of China-Europe relations.
Category Archives: Peer reviewed articles
Eco-urbanism and the eco-city, or, denying the right to the city?
Caprotti, Federico. (2014) Eco-urbanism and the eco-city, or, denying the right to the city? Antipode : A Radical Journal of Geography. Pre-published online, March 3, 2014. DOI: 10.1111/anti.12087
This paper critically analyses the construction of eco-cities as technological fixes to concerns over climate change, Peak Oil, and other scenarios in the transition towards “green capitalism”. It argues for a critical engagement with new-build eco-city projects, first by highlighting the inequalities which mean that eco-cities will not benefit those who will be most impacted by climate change: the citizens of the world’s least wealthy states. Second, the paper investigates the foundation of eco-city projects on notions of crisis and scarcity. Third, there is a need to critically interrogate the mechanisms through which new eco-cities are built, including the land market, reclamation, dispossession and “green grabbing”. Lastly, a sustained focus is needed on the multiplication of workers’ geographies in and around these “emerald cities”, especially the ordinary urban spaces and lives of the temporary settlements housing the millions of workers who move from one new project to another.
Measuring eco cities, comparing European and Asian experiences: Rotterdam versus Beijing
Meine Pieter van Dijk (2015). Measuring eco cities, comparing European and Asian experiences: Rotterdam versus Beijing. Asia Europe Journal. 20 p. Published online: 4 January 2015. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10308-014-0405-7
Many cities have taken initiatives to achieve more sustainable development or to become ecological cities. In this paper, ten dimensions are suggested for defining ecological cities and an effort has been made to provide indicators to measure them. Many cities claim to be ecological cities, but there are no non-ambiguous definitions of ecological cities and few efforts have been made to measure to what extent the cities have achieved their goal. This paper considers the efforts of Beijing and Rotterdam to become more eco cities, using these dimensions. What can we learn from these experiences for developing the city of the future? In an illustrative effort to apply the suggested criteria, Rotterdam scored slightly better than Beijing. The latter city is facing more serious environmental problems and is willing to try more innovative solutions, while Rotterdam spends more money on prevention and CO2 reduction.
Deliberating governance in Chinese urban communities
Tang, Beibei. (2015) Deliberating governance in Chinese urban communities. The China Journal, 73 (January 2015), pp. 84-107. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/679270
This article examines the mechanisms of conflict resolution by public deliberation in Chinese urban residential communities. The analysis focuses on the interactions between three key actors of community life: Residents’ Committees (as the agent of the state), residents, and their representative organizations. Based on empirical data from three types of urban communities, the article finds that deliberation is more effective in communities where the power of Residents’ Committees over residents is weak, and deliberation also works better in communities with strong resident representatives who are able to mobilize information flows and to shape public reasoning. The findings suggest that, on the one hand, the governance structure of Chinese urban residential communities provides space for informal, unstructured public deliberation; on the other hand, deliberation also meets obstacles and dilemmas associated with representation, coordination and fostering understanding across social and economic divisions.
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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‘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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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.
Unreal Estate and China’s Collective Unconscious
Lam, Tong (2014). Unreal estate and China’s collective unconscious : photo essay. Cross-Currents : East Asian History and Culture Review. E-Journal, 10 (March 2014). URL: http://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-10
More than two decades ago, at the height of postmodernism, French historian Pierre Nora lamented that there no longer existed any milieux de memoire, or environments that embodied real everyday experience. What was left, according to him, were merely lieux de memoire, or sites of memory. As such, historical monuments and other memory sites do not seem to carry any fixed historical meaning anymore. Rather, they have emerged as focal points of memory contestation and identity politics, becoming “pure signs” with “no referents in [historical] reality” (Nora 1996, 19).
Indeed, even in China, where the kind of politics of representation common to liberal democracies is seldom applicable, there has been a proliferation of counter-memories—from private museums to Cultural Revolution theme restaurants—that do not always conform to the grand narrative sanctioned by the government. The country’s rapid economic growth over the past three decades has essentially produced an accelerated history, or what Nora and others refer to as the collapse of the present into the past, of memory into history. Not surprisingly, a spontaneous movement is emerging to collect, preserve, and archive all sorts of tangible and intangible artifacts and practices, such as old photographs, recipes, oral histories, and folkways, in contemporary China’s new economy of nostalgia.
What has often been left out of this postsocialist archive fever, however, are the numerous sites that are slipping not into, but out of, history. China’s reckless urbanization and real estate speculation have produced countless architectural wreckages—buildings, neighborhoods, and even cities—that are incomplete, destroyed, abandoned, or otherwise unused. Out of sight and out of mind, these sites do not register in public memory. Some of them may look monumental, but they are not monumentalized. In short, these are sites not of dissonant memories, but of collective unconscious.
For the photographic series featured in this issue of Cross-Currents—“Unreal Estate and China’s Collective Unconscious”—I have selected a diverse range of ruinous spaces to tell an alternative history of contemporary China’s hysterical transformation. Whereas historical monuments in China are frequently used by the state to symbolize civilizational pride and national humiliation, in order to mobilize the masses to observe their patriotic duty, the ruinous sites I seek to foreground in my photographs are non-places that represent the specter of history.
When fiscal recentralisation meets urban reforms
Fu, Qiang. (2014) When fiscal recentralisation meets urban reforms : prefectural landfinance and its association with access to housing in urban China. Urban Studies. Prepublished October, 8, 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0042098014552760
By retrieving household-level information from 127,938 household heads and fiscal data from 177 prefectures located in eastern and central China, this research quantifies the net association between land finance and urban housing tenure. While the results demonstrate that in 2005 China’s urban housing market remained stratified and simultaneously favoured individuals possessing economic, political and human capital, the key finding is that, net of other household- and prefecture-level effects, land finance is significantly and negatively associated with local homeownership. Moreover, both the demand and supply sides of the urban housing market contribute to such net association. By demonstrating the internal links between urban housing and local finance, this research not only provides a more holistic view of housing stratification during institutionalchanges but also lends empirical support to conceptual frameworks that explain a territory-based coalition between local governments and selective enterprises.
The costs of urban growth at the fringe of a Chinese city
Verdini, Giulio1 (2014). The costs of urban growth at the fringe of a Chinese city : evidence from Jinshi Village in Suzhou. International Development Planning Review, 36:4, p. 413-43. Published online October 08, 2014. DOI : 10.3828/idpr.2014.27.
The rate of city growth in China today correlates well with an overall loss of the most fertile agricultural areas of the country. A consequence of this growth includes the rapid reshaping of peri-urban livelihoods in their densely populated fringe. The policy response from central government has focused on containing city growth and pursuing modern rural development. Both policy directions have failed, in part, to acknowledge the intrinsic nature of the urban fringe in China. This paper explores the features of the fringe of Suzhou, a fast growing city in the Yangtze River Delta. The aim is to outline potential social costs of this current policy framework, through analysing the case study of Jinshi Village. The paper advocates a different regionalist approach to policy implementation.
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In 2013, Giulio Verdini has been a visiting scholar at the CECMC (EHESS), the institution that hosts the editorial team of the UrbaChina blog. The activities of Giulio Verdini at the CECMC are presented in Carnets du Centre Chine :
- Giulio Verdini, urbaniste accueilli au CECMC
- Conceiving the rural in coastal China
- The rural heritage and the modernization at the fringe of the Chinese cities
- Bridging the gap between conservation and community: evidence from two cases in Suzhou and Shanghai
1. Urban Planning and Design, Xi’an Jiaotong – Liverpool University, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China.
See more at: http://academic.xjtlu.edu.cn/upd/Staff/giulio-verdini
Theorising Chinese urbanisation: A multi-layered perspective
Gu, Chaolin, Christian Kesteloot and Ian G. Cook (2014). Theorising Chinese urbanisation: A multi-layered perspective. Urban Studies. Published online before print, 22 September 2014. doi:10.1177/0042098014550457.
Urbanisation in China and its rapid increase in recent decades as a result of industrialisation and globalisation are often conceived as a simplified process. Moreover, the speed of the present day process yields the impression that the traces of previous forms of urbanisation are erased for good. Both of these assumptions are challenged in this paper. The built environment resulting from this urbanisation process is to be conceived as a series of layers that reflect different modes of productions and related logics of production of space. Hence, we try to comprehend the spatial arrangement of the city, which can be thought of as a geological metaphor. The social groups that have to be sheltered in urban residential space also radically change in each of these periods. We proceed to analyse these layers and how they combine and interact over time with the concept of socio-spatial configuration, which denotes a precise type of residential environment related to a specific social group in the city. Chinese cities are made up of five types of urbanisation, reflected in five layers and their related socio-spatial configurations: the traditional, proto-globalisation, socialist, market-led and globalisation layers.
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Contesting speculative urbanisation and strategising discontents
Shin, Hyun Bang (2014). Contesting speculative urbanisation and strategising discontents. City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, 18:4-5, p. 509-516. DOI:10.1080/13604813.2014.939471. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2014.939471 [26 September 2014].
This paper explains what the production of speculative urbanisation in mainland China means for strategising emergent discontents therein. It is argued that China’s urbanisation is a political and ideological project by the Party State, producing urban-oriented accumulation through the commingling of the labour-intensive industrial production with heavy investment in the built environment. Therefore, for any progressive movements to be formed, it becomes imperative to imagine and establish cross-class alliances to claim the right to the city (or the right to the urban, given the limitations of the city as an analytical unit). Because of the nature of urbanisation, the alliances would need to involve not only industrial workers and urban inhabitants but also village farmers whose lands are expropriated to accommodate investments to produce the urban as well as ethnic minorities in autonomous regions whose cities are appropriated and restructured to produce Han-dominated cities. Education emerges as an important strategy for the discontented who need to understand how the fate of urban inhabitants is knitted tightly with the fate of workers, villagers and others who are subject to the exploitation of the urban-oriented accumulation.
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A study on urban regeneration of Shanghai
Han, Ling and Jin-Young Kim (2014). A study on urban regeneration of Shanghai. Advanced Science and Technology Letters, 52 (SUComS 2014), pp.179-183. Retrieved 2 September 2014 from: http://dx.doi.org/10.14257/astl.2014.52.30
The historical buildings in the city imply the history of development as well as symbolize the identity of the city. The historical landscape of the city in the modern times premised in the preservation has had conflicts with modern development consistently. However, entering 2000s, Shanghai is actively carrying out the urban regeneration project. Accordingly, this study aims tointroduce the process in which Shanghai has developed and turned its historical sites into a contemporary cultural complex. In addition, the research analyzes the practical cases and suggests effective development of the creative industrial complex, introducing the policies related to urban regeneration of Shanghai.
Chinese urban planning: environmentalising a hyper-functionalist machine?
Curien, Rémi. (2014) Chinese urban planning : environmentalising a hyper-functionalist machine? China Perspectives [Online], 2014/3. Connection on 16 September 2014. URL : http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/6528.
How should the considerable discrepancy between the concepts of sustainable urban development proclaimed by the Chinese authorities and the reality on the ground be understood? This article examines the urban planning procedures that currently hold sway in China. The building of new cities is based upon a generic method of hyper-productivist and functionalist planning, reflected as a pyramid structure that extends over the whole country and is embodied by urban zoning on a vast scale. This procedure, which has been in force for nearly 30 years, is not at present one that is called into question by Chinese decision-makers, and does not take environmental principles seriously into account. Conversely, all of the reasoning upon which urban development is based remains very far removed from environmental considerations. China is continuing down the road of accelerated development behind the wheel of a growing hyper-functionalist urban machine.
The end of the hukou system?
Goodburn, Charlotte (2014). The end of the hukou system? Not yet. China Policy Institute Policy Paper, 2. 7 p. Retrieved 9 September 2014 from: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/cpi/documents/policy-papers/cpi-policy-paper-2014-no-2-goodburn.pdf?utm_content=bufferd01fe&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
The July 2014 Chinese State Council circular on the “end of the hukou (household registration) system” has been greeted by a mixture of jubilation and scepticism in the press. The abolition of the distinction between rural and urban Chinese citizens, which has existed since the 1950s, is historic, and may be of symbolic importance, but much of the rest of the policy announcement is neither new nor likely to benefit most current and prospective rural-urban migrants. Real hukou reform will be difficult and costly, and remains a long way off.
Hukou reform: Beijing abolishes “agricultural” residence class, but rural-urban split remains. China Economic Review, 8 September 2014. Retrieved 9 Sptember 2014 from: http://www.chinaeconomicreview.com/hukou-reform-beijing-abolishes-agricultural-residence-class-rural-urban-split-remains
When China’s State Council announced in late July that it would end the official division of Chinese residents into rural and urban, it ended a practice that for almost six decades represented the worst of the country’s oft-decried residence permit, or hukou, system. When introduced in the late 50’s the restrictive policy bifurcated Chinese into an urban minority with government-provided benefits and a rural majority expected to feed both cities and itself.
Today over half of China’s population already lives in the cities. A blueprint for the country’s urbanization announced in March plans for 60% of the population to be urban by 2020, meaning another 100 million Chinese will move to cities. The plan also calls for 45% of the population to have urban hukou, meaning another 250 million once-rural residents will need to be registered in cities. This would theoretically entitle them to better benefits in areas such as health care and education.
The State Council provided general guidelines in its recent announcement on how the central government wants urbanization to proceed: few to no residency rules for those migrating to smaller cities, and increasingly stringent requirements as urban populations pass the 1 and 3 million marks. Cities with over 5 million people can use a “points” system to decide who is accorded residence, a practice already used by larger cities like Beijing that weeds out the vast majority of hukou hopefuls in favor of high-earning or highly educated applicants.