new paper in Urban Geography

Fulong Wu (2018): Housing privatization and the return of the state: changing governance in China, Urban Geography, DOI: 10.1080/02723638.2018.1440126


Housing privatization seems to suggest a process of state retreat. However, this is not always the case in China. This paper examines an estate that is mixed with work-unit housing and municipal public housing to understand its changing governance. It is intri- guing to observe that the state has had to return to this neighbor- hood to strengthen its administration following housing privatization, because the attempt to transfer responsibility to commercial property management failed. The neighborhood gov- ernance, however, has transformed from one based on work-units to a government-funded administrative agency. The return of the state has been achieved through professional social workers, and it is struggling to operate, leading to the alienation and disempo- werment of former state work-unit residents. The side effect of this approach to governance is that, through encouraging market provision and commercial operation which is not fully working, reciprocal activities are restrained. Since housing privatization, the neighborhood has deteriorated from a brand-new estate into an ‘old and dilapidated neighborhood’ in less than 25 years.

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