The Development of Migrant Villages: Implications for Poverty and Slum Policies

With rising social inequality in China, housing insecurity in informal migrant settlements known as chengzhongcun, the wholesale redevelopment of these villages has become contested andIMG_0057 controversial in both government discussion and policy and the media. However, the development of migrant villages under China’s rapid urbanization has never been studied in relation to the established and proliferating international development research on ‘slums’. There is a clear gap in cross-country learning.

In the suburbs of Beijing, former villages are turned into migrants’ production sites; in the peri-urban areas of Shanghai, co-renting in the same room is forbiddIMG_3417en by the government and has become highly controversial; in Guangzhou, ‘villages in the city’ are becoming a ‘thriving’ world of their own in which the lack of basic infrastructure and high crime rates concern the government. Migrant villages are considered by policy makers to be blemishes on China’s globalizing urban images and officials routinely, without question, advocate demolition and comprehensive redevelopment. But are these migrant settlements slums? According to the operational definition by UN-HABITAT, these settlements can indeed be viewed as slums. How different are they from slums in other developing countries?

Our research investigated the dynamics of migrant village formation, to examine redevelopment practices and policies, and to identify the scope for progressive upgrading as an alternative approach. It aims to inform Chinese policy makers and provide learning feedback to the wider international development community, offering new experiences in coping with the ‘challenge of slums’. The study is specific to China, but the theoretical perspective and methodology is transferable to other developing countries experiencing rapid urbanization.

Research findings

You can read our key findings in the following articles and book.

Wu, F., Zhang, F. & Webster, C. (eds.) (2013) Rural migrants in urban China: Enclaves and transient urbanism, Routledge, London.

Wu, F., Zhang, F. & Webster, C. (2013) Informality and the development and demolition of urban villages in the Chinese peri-urban area, Urban Studies 50(10) pp 1919-1934 (download here)