Readings and training materials PGSS 2010

Changing Urbanities in China

Professor Flemming Christiansen is director of the National Institute of Chinese Studies (NICS), White Rose East Asia Centre, University of Leeds. His specialty is livelihoods, social strata and classes in China, Chinese rural development and urbanisation, and identity politics in China and among Chinese.

The lecture will be structured in three main parts, each of which will be dealing with a distinct perspective on the urbanisation process in China: (a) Urbanisation as a part of the socialist political-economy strategy; (b) Urbanisation as urban and rural community building; and (c) Global dimensions of urbanisation.

The aim of this will be to provide comprehensive overviews of major dynamics underlying and guiding the urbanisation processes in China, explaining the most important institutional frameworks for these processes.

The major setting is that China's urbanisation rate of about 47 pct. (2009, up from less than 20 pct. in 1980) and relatively sustained large economic growth rates (averaging around 9 percent over a decade) also involves a significant measure of social inequality (Gini coefficient of 0.47) and an impending rapid ageing of the population from about 10 pct. (2005) to about 30 pct. (2050) of the population above 60 years of age. The combination of highly dynamic changes in the population's social environment, demographic composition, internal inequality and overall affluence will be discussed in terms of policies dealing with (a) the deployment of economic resources for food security and growth, (b) organisation of social and labour structures, as well as (c) the integration of the Chinese economy in the world economy. The starting point is that urbanisation did not start from a "clean slate" at the outset of the reforms in 1979, but evolved under particular pressures that determined a range of social and institutional outcomes.

Urbanisation as a part of the socialist political-economy strategy

1) The legacy of the people's commune system

  • The three big differences (san da chabie)
  • Food security and the rural growth model
  • The crisis of agricultural production

2) Household registration and household responsibility

  • "Peasant freedom " and the state plan: Food security and "socialist construction"
  • Land and labour
  • Labour migration and urban expansion

3) Institutional change and the rise of social inequality

  • Tax, fees and "peasant burden"
  • The "three rural issues"
  • Risk, informality and social exclusion

4) The "scientific concept of development"

  • Urban-rural integration
  • Shifting sites of urbanisation?
  • Political economy expedience versus social justice

Urbanisation as urban and rural community building

1) New formats of public policy

  • Towards rural labour transition?
  • De-fragmentation of urban labour markets?
  • Formalisation of labour versus pushing the boundary of informality into the "hinterland"

2) Social policy

  • Households, migration, citizenship and welfare
  • Medical insurance
  • Pensions and social assistance

3) From village and street committee to community

  • From "danwei" community to residential segregation
  • Local citizenship and participation
  • Managing social differentiation

4) Social inclusion/exclusion

  • The role of migrant labour
  • Land, household responsibility and village bonds
  • Household registration practices in flux?

Global dimensions of urbanisation

1) Urbanisation and economic development

  • The "modernisation" strategy as technological transition
  • Plan, market, danwei, corporation and competing efficiencies
  • The spatial evolution of the production and urban life

2) Export processing, labour mobility and foreign direct investment

  • The SEZs, the coastal industrial towns and the cities
  • Chinese migrants abroad
  • Global dimensions of social inequality

3) Global norms of development

  • Stockholm, Bucharest, Rio, Copenhagen: Agendas of global integration
  • Global impacts on urban development in China
  • Urbanisation, uprooted belongings and emerging global identities

Some sample readings: