Urban Furnace: The Making of a Chinese City

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Urban Furnace: The Making of a Chinese City

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Title: Urban Furnace: The Making of a Chinese City
Author: Smith, Nicholas Russell ORCID  0000-0001-6072-4279
Citation: Smith, Nicholas Russell. 2015. Urban Furnace: The Making of a Chinese City. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: Urban transformation and the production of urban-rural difference have been defining characteristics of reform-era China. In recent years, the Chinese state has taken measures to relieve urban-rural inequity and coordinate urban and rural development. Beginning in 2003, these efforts took the form of “urban-rural coordination,” a national regime of policy reform that included local experiments throughout China. One of the earliest and most significant of these experiments was located in Chongqing, a provincial-level municipality in China’s southwest.

In this dissertation, I explore Chongqing’s urban-rural coordination program as part of a larger process through which urban-rural difference is produced, contested, and mobilized in China. I pursue this project through an investigation of Hailong, a peri-urban village that has undergone rapid transformation over the last decade. An experiment within an experiment, Hailong is a site of intense contestation, as planners, party and state leaders, and residents advance alternately competing and complementary visions of Hailong’s future. Far from a typical village, Hailong’s experimental status and peri-urban liminality clarify the contestation of urban and rural, exposing the politics of urban-rural production. While the specifics of Hailong’s transformation are unique, the village therefore offers a window into urban-rural dynamics common across China, making it a privileged case for investigation.

Through my investigation of Hailong, I pose the following question: How is urban-rural difference produced, and to what ends? Using a combination of ethnography and spatial analysis, I explore the spatial, temporal, and social dimensions of the political processes that produce urban-rural difference. My investigation reveals urban-rural difference as both an expression of the spatio-temporal unevenness of power and a means to consolidate and contest that power. This contradicts the predominant view that urban-rural difference is a natural outcome of economic unevenness—or, more specifically in the case of China, marketization. Rather, institutions such as markets and planning constitute tools of coordination and discipline mobilized to enforce compliance with actors’ power projects, or alternatively, to contest them. Through this analysis, urban-rural coordination emerges as a political project that simultaneously expands state power and depoliticizes that expansion through its representation as a technical question of market relations.

The dissertation is divided into two parts. In Part I, I consider the rationalities and practices of the principal actors involved in Hailong’s transformation: village planners, village leaders, and village residents. In Part II, I investigate the intersection of these various projects in Hailong’s ongoing planning and redevelopment, and I conclude with a discussion of the role of the village collective as a crucial institution in the contestation of urban-rural difference.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:17467217
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