The "community question" in the state-led urbanization process of post-reform China: a case study of Shanghai

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The "community question" in the state-led urbanization process of post-reform China: a case study of Shanghai

 

Author: Xu, Ying
Title: The "community question" in the state-led urbanization process of post-reform China: a case study of Shanghai
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2010
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Urbanization -- Social aspects -- China -- Shanghai
Land use -- China -- Shanghai
Department: Dept. of Building and Real Estate
Pages: xv, 196 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm.
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2425050
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/6071
Abstract: The fate of community in industrialized and urbanized society, generalized by Barry Wellman as the "community question" in the 1970s, has been extensively researched by urbanists and sociologists. The concept is mainly about examining the transformation of social networks when rural residents move to urban areas, and the ways urbanization processes affect social networks. There have been three diverging arguments on the "community question" namely, community lost, saved or liberated. Since the market-oriented economic reforms in 1978, Chinese cities have experienced rapid urbanization processes. Urbanization in China is perceived to be unique because of the country’s peculiar institutional settings and urbanization policies. Therefore, this research focuses on the "community question" with regard to Chinese urbanization. It examines whether the unique urbanization process in post-reform China will lead to a response to the "community question" different from that in other countries. In order to answer this question, this research, with the example of urbanization led by state-initiated land requisition in Shanghai, attempts to achieve four major endeavors. First, by dividing the urbanization process into three stages of rural village, semi-urbanized village and urban resettlement housing district, to identify the unique features of the urbanization process led by state-initiated land requisition in post-reform China. Second, based on the identified unique features, to develop a conceptual analytical framework to investigate the interaction between urbanization process and social networks. Third, to evaluate the status of farmers' social networks at the three stages according to the questionnaire data analysis and, through critical comparisons, to generalize the transformation trend of social networks in the urbanization process. Fourth, to carry out dynamic analysis between urbanization processes and changes in social networks by applying the developed analytical framework to explain the transformation of farmers' social networks. In this study, the triangulation research methodology is employed such that a qualitative approach is used to help explain the quantitative findings derived from questionnaire-based surveys.
The unique features of the urbanization process led by land requisition in post-reform China are identified as: (a) The urbanization process involves not only significant changes in physical form and land-use structure but also re-structuring of political and economic systems, because of the dualistic socio-economic structure separating urban and rural areas; (2) Complex interplay between the state and market in the urbanization process has led to peculiar physical and social changes, and resulted in two unique neighborhood patterns of semi-urbanized village and urban resettlement housing district. This study finds that the transformation of farmers' social networks in the urbanization process of post-reform China is generally in line with the well-established argument of "community lost". However, there are still some different manifestations in the case of Chinese urbanization. (1) There are some peculiar changes in the structure of farmers' social networks during the urbanization process, such as the constitution of farmers' social networks, places and means of social contact; (2) The decline of interpersonal social ties among farmers is non-linear in the urbanization process, which is different from the common assertion of linear transformation in literature; (3) The dynamics between urbanization processes and social networks in post-reform China is dissimilar with that in other countries. Finally, by applying the conceptual analytical framework that is developed based on the unique features of urbanization processes, this study has successfully explained the different manifestations on the "community question" in post-reform China. Thus, this conceptual analytical framework can be regarded as a strategic tool in understanding the "community question" in post-reform China, and also it provides research direction for similar research.

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