SPECIAL FEATURE – Edited by Natacha Aveline-Dubach
China Perspectives 2013, 2.
Editorial by Natacha Aveline-Dubach
China is undergoing intense urbanisation at a rate largely surpassing anything Asia has experienced and the magnitude of which might well have a lasting effect on the global economy. Some 350 million rural residents are expected to move into urban areas by 2025. If current trends persist, 221 cities could have populations surpassing one million by 2025 – against 35 in Europe now – of which 23 could have more than five million. This urbanisation phenomenon poses a major challenge to the building industry and opens up formidable investment potential. In dealing with real estate issues in China, academic literature has largely focused on land use as a means of capital accumulation by local authorities, conflicts over expropriation procedures, or distortions in land use – especially wasteful use of farmland. However, little is known of the workings of property markets and the modalities of action in that industry. This special feature aims to open new paths of reflection on the structuring effects of property dynamics in China’s urbanisation.
Rooted in Deng Xiaoping-era reforms, China’s property market really took off in the 1990s with the growth of a private housing market. In just a few years, official steps to externalise the real estate of work units transformed thousands of people into owner-occupants. This has been accompanied by a marked rise in property prices in coastal cities. Is this because of speculative activities, or do these spurts stem from the Chinese productive system’s economic performance? The media have reported on extreme instances of real estate oversupply in several places, the most spectacular being the Ordos “ghost city” in Inner Mongolia. Mylène Gaulard notes these supplydemand distortions and defends the bubble hypothesis. She points to the abnormally high property-price/income ratio and to rising real estate debt in the Chinese economy. She traces the origin of speculative activities to 1994, when there was a convergence of fiscal recentralisation, an upsurge in local collectives’ indebtedness based on land collateral, and housing commodification… Read the full text of the editorial
Changes in the Chinese Property Market: An indicator of the difficulties faced by local authorities – Mylène Gaulard
ABSTRACT: For the past decade, China has faced an extremely sharp rise in property prices and increasingly large investments made in this sector. Although some economists consider this change to be no more than the result of the increase in urban salaries that has gone hand-in-hand with China’s strong economic growth, this article will show that it is in fact a “property bubble” resulting from the speculative activities of certain economic agents operating in this sector. Local authorities play a major role in this, especially in their efforts to increase their income, and their behaviour needs to be analysed in order to better understand that a bursting of this bubble might expose economic problems of a far deeper structural nature than those usually identified.
Challenges and Opportunities Facing China’s Urban Development in the New Era: A statistical and spatial analysis – Han Ruibo, Wang Linna
ABSTRACT: The acceleration of urban expansion has greatly impacted the study of China’s urban system, and the urban function at the national level has largely been characterised by the spatial distribution and evolution of cities. In order to understand the dynamics of urban development in China, it is necessary to analyse the history of city evolution and understand the context in which that evolution took place. The first section of this paper introduces the urbanisation process in China since the 1950s in order to demonstrate the origins of China’s recenturbanisation patterns. Subsequently, the structural transitions of city scaling and urban clusters are presented by employing Rank-size Analysis and satellite imagery, followed by the challenges brought about by these changes. Finally, the spatial distribution and transition patterns of China’s urban system are analysed using Centrographic Analysis.
Finance Capital Launches an Assault on Chinese Real Estate – Natacha Aveline-Dubach
ABSTRACT: Over the past two decades, global market finance has taken root in China to seek property investment. This article examines the spatialities and anchorage methods of finance capital within Chinese national territory. It highlights the spatial and sectoral differences in the composition of property portfolios as a function of the return/risk coupling. These differences are exacerbated by a split in the geographical origin of the funds, which determines differentiated conditions of access to land and management of the investment time horizon of the assets portfolios. The penetration of finance capital into urban space tends to increase the fragmentation and functional specialisation of districts, a phenomenon fostered by entrepreneurial urban policies. As a result, urban projects are becoming standardised in terms of both design and program. They are increasingly governed by external references that favour the expansion of multinationals and transform lifestyles and consumer habits.
Commodity Housing and the Socio-spatial Structure in Guangzhou – A study based on estate-level residential property prices – Ryanne Flock, Werner Breitung, and Li Lixun
ABSTRACT: Commodity housing has become a major engine of urban restructuring and social change in China. It is alleged to aid growing residential segregation and urban fragmentation. In this context, housing price is viewed as an important sorting mechanism. This article investigates this claim by looking at Guangzhou’s housing market and analysing data of 797 commercial housing estates. It analyses the development of commodity housing and the trends of housing prices in the city and maps the locational patterns of high, middle, or low housing affordability within this sector.
China’s Regional Strategy and Challenges in East Asia – Joseph Y.S. Cheng
ABSTRACT: China has rapidly developed a sophisticated regionalism strategy in East Asia. Minimising the region’s “China threat” perception has been a significant consideration in this strategy. Unfortunately, the ongoing escalation of tension concerning territorial disputes over the Diaoyutai / Senkaku Islands and the South China Sea, initiated by a series of high-profile naval exercises in the latter half of 2010, has reinforced the “China threat” perception and bolstered the hedging strategies of countries in the region. China is aware of its relative disadvantage, and it has been keeping its options open while allowing ASEAN to maintain the initiative.