Urban redevelopment

Key reference

Fulong Wu. 2016. State dominance in urban redevelopment: beyond gentrification in urban China. Urban Affairs Review. 52(5) 631–658. (full paper pdf)

Abstract. This article will revisit Smith’s seminal argument that gentrification is a global urban strategy. The article pays attention to the role of the state and displacement during the process of redevelopment. Through an in-depth study of a dilapidated neighborhood with concentrated migrant population in Shanghai, it is revealed that state control is behind the deterioration of the neighborhood prior to its redevelopment. Inadequate services and poor housing conditions are undeniable. Informal development has been quickly realigned by state dominance. The self-building neighborhood is eventually replaced by state-sanctioned development projects. The article echoes the debate over displacement in the West and suggests that recent urban redevelopment in China has gone beyond both the sporadic middle-class return to the city and residential changes backed up by state actions, revealing hegemonic power of the state over spatial production. Through urban redevelopment, the state attempts to regularize informal areas into new production spaces for its revenue maximization.

Relevant studies

Fulong Wu. 2020. Scripting Indian and Chinese urban spatial transformation: adding new narratives to gentrification and suburbanisation research. Environment and Planning C (on-line first) (full paper pdf)

Abstract. This paper examines the spatial transformation of Indian and Chinese cities with reference to prevailing gentrification and suburbanisation studies. Focusing on urban redevelopment and peripheral extension, the paper highlights how Indian and Chinese urban studies provide extensive analyses of demolition and displacement in urban renewal and redevelopment, peri-urbanisation, and mega urban projects in urban spatial extension. These studies, often developed by paying attention to specific Indian or Chinese urbanisation, add new narratives to gentrification and suburbanisation research and help to enhance our understanding of contemporary urban changes. Thinking about Indian and Chinese urban spatial transformation, these studies highlight that gentrification and suburbanisation are large research fields rather than defined concepts.

Zheng Wang, Fulong Wu. 2019. In-situ marginalisation: social impact of Chinese mega-projects. Antipode 51(5): 1640–1663. (full paper pdf)

Abstract. This study offers a detailed analysis of an under‐researched social problem of in‐situ marginalisation and its causes by drawing on the concept of state entrepreneurialism. Our empirical data stem from the Lingang mega project in Shanghai and one of its neighbourhoods named Neighbourhood No.57 where we find that the residents have not been relocated but are instead suffering from declining public services and environmental quality from surrounding industrial developments. The root cause of this problem is the municipal government’s prioritisation of its strategic objectives of economic development over the livelihood of local residents. The strategic vision of the municipality has led to mass relocation in its early phases of development but in its later stages leaves many residents waiting for relocation whilst being gradually surrounded by industrial developments. Despite continued residential complaints and petitions, in‐situ marginalisation is not resolved due to the institutional arrangement of Lingang, which has centralised planning and financing powers to newly created project‐oriented state organisation. Social responsibilities have been relegated to lower‐tiered governments in Lingang which have neither planning power nor the financial resources to resolve the problems of residents. By examining the case of Lingang, this paper provides a different analytical framework for explaining the social problems emerging from China’s mega urban developments.

Yuqi Liu, Fulong Wu, Ye Liu, and Zhigang Li. 2017. Changing neighbourhood cohesion under the impact of urban redevelopment: a case study of Guangzhou, China. Urban Geography 38(2):266-90. (full paper pdf)

Abstract. Large-scale urban redevelopment has caused the breakdown of traditional social bonds in Chinese cities. To date, very few studies have attempted to delve into the impact of this urban redevelopment on neighbourhood cohesion. Using data collected from questionnaires conducted in 20 urban villages and 1 urban village redevelopment neighbourhood in Guangzhou, this paper examines the impact of urban village redevelopment on the restructuring of neighbourhood attachment, neighbourly interaction, and community participation—three dimensions of neighbourhood cohesion. Results of a path analysis show that, overall, neighbourhood cohesion declines after redevelopment occurs, and that the sources of neighbourhood cohesion differ between urban villages and the redevelopment neighbourhood. Our findings show that after redevelopment, neighbourhood attachment becomes more influenced by residential satisfaction but less by neighbourly contacts, and community participation becomes less subject to neighbourly interaction and neighbourhood attachment. Such changes occur as a result of the differentiation between social groups and the concurrence of environmental restructuring and demographic reconstruction during the process of urban village redevelopment.

Fulong Wu, Fangzhu Zhang, Chris Webster. 2013. Informality and the development and demolition of urban villages in the Chinese peri-urban area. Urban Studies 50(10): 1919-1934. (full paper pdf)

Abstract. The fate of Chinese urban villages (chengzhongcun) has recently attracted both research and policy attention. Two important unaddressed questions are: what are the sources of informality in otherwise orderly Chinese cities; and, will village redevelopment policy eliminate informality in the Chinese city? Reflecting on the long-established study of informal settlements and recent research on informality, it is argued that the informality in China has been created by the dual urban–rural land market and land management system and by an underprovision of migrant housing. The redevelopment of chengzhongcun is an attempt to eliminate this informality and to create more governable spaces through formal land development; but since it fails to tackle the root demand for unregulated living and working space, village redevelopment only leads to the replication of informality in more remote rural villages, in other urban neighbourhoods and, to some extent, in the redeveloped neighbourhoods.

Jie Shen and Fulong Wu, 2012. Restless urban landscapes in China: a case study of three projects in Shanghai. Journal of Urban Affairs 34(3) 255-277.

Abstract. This paper investigates the emergence of diversified landscapes in postreform China. The new urban forms are understood as a result of broader changes in the institutional and sociocultural spheres since reform. The commodification of housing provision on the supply side and the rise of a new rich and consumer culture on the demand side have together led to an ever-important role of place marketing in adding to the exchange values of land and buildings. Three projects in Shanghai are further studied in detail to illustrate what has been built and how they are built. It is revealed that, whatever the building style, the landscapes are manipulated to conjure up a certain type of good life by mixed-use packages and distinctive images. Furthermore, a new mode of public–private partnership favoring place marketing and holistic development strategies has also emerged. In comparison with other countries that have witnessed similar urban changes, an important process that China is experiencing is the commodification of urban space under globalization. But the dominant role of the state makes the case of China distinct. How market and global forces could shape the built environment still largely depends on the state’s urban policies.

Shenjing He and Fulong Wu. 2009. China’s emerging neo-liberal urbanism, urban redevelopment as a forefront. Antipode 41(2): 282-304.

Abstract. China’s urbanization is undergoing profound neoliberal shifts, within which urban redevelopment has emerged in the forefront of neoliberalization. This study aims to understand China’s emerging neoliberal urbanism by examining the association between urban redevelopment and neoliberalism. Rather than a deliberate design, neoliberalization in China is a response to multiple difficulties/crises and the desire for rapid development. The neoliberalization process is full of controversies and inconsistencies, which involve conflicts between neoliberal practices and social resistance, and tensions between central and local states. Nevertheless, China’s neoliberal urbanism has a responsive and resilient system to cope with the contradictions and imbalances inherent in neoliberalism. Meanwhile, neoliberal urbanism is more tangible at the sub‐national scale, since the local state can most effectively assist neoliberal experiments and manage crises. This study not only contributes to the understanding of China’s neoliberal urbanism, but also has multiple implications for neoliberalism studies in general. First, in examining the interrelationship between the state and market, it is the actual effect of legitimizing and facilitating market operation rather than the presence (or absence) of the state that matters. Second, a new nexus of governance has formed in the neoliberalization process. Not only the nation state but also the local state is of great significance in assisting and managing neoliberal projects. Third, this study further validates the importance and necessity of scrutinizing neoliberal practices, in particular the controversies and inconsistencies within the neoliberalization process.

Shenjing He and Fulong Wu. 2007. Socio-spatial impacts of property-led redevelopment on China’s urban neighbourhoods. Cities 24(3): 194-208.

Abstract. To understand the socio-spatial impacts of property-led redevelopment on China’s urban neighbourhoods, this study inquires into two influential redevelopment projects in Shanghai. The significance of this research lies in using first-hand data to indicate the new trends of urban change in the Chinese city. Through analysing the data from a 500-questionnaire survey, two different forms of socio-spatial changes under property-led redevelopment are identified. On the one hand, an extensive residential displacement occurs during redevelopment, a process of gentrification is emerging in China. On the other hand, to re-image the inner city and promote economic growth, urban redevelopment has led to changing urban function/land use in old neighbourhoods. As the local government legitimizes property-interest-centred reinvestment in the inner city, old neighbourhoods, which used to accommodate low-income residents, are now occupied by people with higher socioeconomic status or transferred to high-valued-added commercial land use. The exchange value of urban space is produced at the cost of old urban neighbourhoods’ everyday use value.

Shenjing He and Fulong Wu. 2005. Property-led redevelopment in post-reform China: a case study of Xintiandi redevelopment project in Shanghai. Journal of Urban Affairs 27(1): 1-23.

Abstract. Urban redevelopment in China has experienced great transformation. Government-backed redevelopment has been replaced by privately funded and property-led redevelopment. This article discerns the impetus of ongoing property-led redevelopment. A case study of the Xintiandi project in Shanghai reveals how property-led redevelopment actually works. Pro-growth coalitions between local government and developers are formed. Despite its role as capital provider, the private sector is still regulated by the government due to its negligible influence on local governance. The government controls the direction and pace of urban redevelopment through policy intervention, financial leverages, and governance of land leasing. Property-led redevelopment is driven by diverse motivations of different levels of the government, e.g. transforming urban land use functions, showing off the entrepreneurial capability of local government, and maximizing negotiated land benefits. Driven by profit seeking, some thriving urban neighborhoods are displaced by high-value property development, and suffer from uneven redevelopment.