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Urbani Izziv  2012 

State Rescaling, Contested Space, and Inequality in the Globalizing City-regions of China: Conceptual Issues and Empirical Evidence

Keywords: urban space , residential space , work space , rescaling , China

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In post-reform China, the spatial forms of cities are defined by two combined forces—a downward decentralization of responsibility for economic development, and an upward centralization of power to larger urban cores. This process of administrative rescaling is creating an “entrepreneurial urban space” in the city cores and “commercialized towns and villages” in the city margins (McGee et al. 2007). As a result of the rescaling, a form of contested space has emerged, mostly in cities and their immediate margins, where local civil society is constantly resisting or adapting to the Chinese urban expansion manifested through territorial reorganization and boundary redefinition. Cities’ inner margins (suburbs) have in particular seen the most dramatic increases in population and manufacturing due to migration, housing development, and industrial relocation. This paper seeks to provide a close dissection of the process of rescaling and the production of these contested urban spaces through a spatial lens. In adopting a comparative and case study approach, this paper analyzes census data from three large city-regions in China: Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to explore two questions: (1) whether this rescaling is creating segmentation, displacement, or polarization in residence and work spaces; and (2) at which scales (district or community) these spatial outcomes are unfolding. The paper concludes that inequalities are increasingly concentrated in the inner margins, where an entrepreneurial city core meets the self-initiated urban expansion of the towns in the outer margins, and farmers, displaced urbanites, rural migrants, and foreign workers aggregate and compete for space.


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