Chai, Yanwei (2014). From socialist danwei to new danwei: a daily-life-based framework for sustainable development in urban China. Asian Geographer. Published online: 1 August 2014. DOI: 10.1080/10225706.2014.942948
The danwei (or work unit) compound was the basic spatial and social unit of urban China in the pre-reform period, and its transformation has been an important part of the larger transitions that have remade urban China during the reform era. This paper investigates spatial and social changes in urban China over three stages; namely, the formation of the socialist danwei system, the decline of the socialist danwei and the formation of a new kind of danwei. I argue that the socialist danwei included positive elements like mixed land use, job-housing balance and social equality, while the decline of the socialist danwei system has resulted in many negative outcomes such as spatial mismatch and social segregation. In proposing a framework for new danwei, I suggest that urban life should be structured around residents’ daily activity spaces based on their daily-life-circle systems. The concept of the new danwei offers a practical solution through combining a human-focused approach with consideration of China’s contemporary economic and social reality. The paper concludes with a discussion on possible avenues for future research.
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