Urban development discourses in Mainland China : a case study of collective nail-house protest in W city

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Urban development discourses in Mainland China : a case study of collective nail-house protest in W city


Author: Li, Ni
Title: Urban development discourses in Mainland China : a case study of collective nail-house protest in W city
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2014
Subject: Urbanization -- China
City planning -- China
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: viii, 161 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
OneSearch: https://www.lib.polyu.edu.hk/bib/b2747265
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/7478
Abstract: In recent decades resistance against imposed urban demolition staged by affected Chinese citizens have garnered much academic attention. The common theme in most current literature is what are the factors to make an urban protest successful. Two major perspectives are hence concentrated on the unique political structure--e.g., decentralization in post-reform era, and the resource mobilization process in terms of how people have made use of their social networks and the mass media. However, after years of protest, the major agenda of Nail-House protests is still restricted to compensation negotiation. We can seldom find any different demands or alternative city visions. The limitations of Nail-House protests cannot be answered by current literatures. Therefore, this research is designed to inquire into how people understand urban development. Specifically, this research tries to scrutinize how the major agenda of Nail-House protest is framed, whether or not the affected citizens have different visions of urban development, and if so, how these different visions are excluded from the final agenda. A post-structural approach of discourse analysis is employed in this research to shed light upon how urban discourses serve to justify urban spatial restructuring as beneficial. It is argued that the protests staged by Nail-Houses are often framed by three mainstreams of discourses: 1) the hegemony of economic growth; 2) improvement of urban space through the current trajectory of urban development; and 3) an either-or choice between the state and the market. In order to look into how citizens interpret urban development, this research is designed as a qualitative study. A typical case of Nail-House protest in W City is focused. Shop owners in the J Street community participated in a collective protest against the redevelopment program. Similar to other Nail-Houses, they have resorted to strategies including mobilizing the social networks and the mass media. After nearly three years of struggle, the collective action ended when most of them accepted the final agreement to relocate to a suburban market with new shops.
This research challenges the dominant urban discourses by unveiling economical and social losses and risks generating from current urban development mode, which are ignored or underestimated. Economic growth cannot be sustained by bulldozer development. Rather, it is at the expense of wasting resources. Small business people are marginalized in this wave of nation-wide urban development. Although a small portion of them can get new shops in suburban market, they cannot continue their original business. Citizens doing small household business have very limited choices to maintain a living. It is rather difficult for the aged business people to return to the labor market. Some hence choose to retire at rather early age. Citizens have trouble but lack of social support or public service to get used to changed life pattern. Traditional communities are disappearing. In the case of small household business people, family problems increase due to a big change of gender division. The public debate between "pro-state" scholars and "pro-market" scholars generates a misleading either-or choice between the state and the market. Legitimacy crisis make many citizens lose faith in policies or laws that claim to protect their rights. Citizens also fear to get involved in public issues. Consequently they turn to bargain for personal gains and losses, and overlook the meaning of participation. Since the affected citizens in this case are small household business people, they believe in the market system as a fairer one. But they underestimated the risks of the market.

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