Land and people: Governing social conflicts in China's state-led urbanisation

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Since 2014, China has formalised rural-to-urban hukou transfer as part of its people-centred approach to urbanisation. This article aims to examine how 'urbanisation of people', a hukou-based reform of rural populations, intersects with 'urbanisation of land', a crucial arena of capital and power accumulation for the state. Building on ethnographic fieldwork research in Fang village, Guangzhou, this article argues that strategies of social governance - public participation under the strengthened role of the state, using law to resolve conflicts, and the state's receptiveness to demands of an economic nature - hold the key to state-led urbanisation. Social governance depoliticises people's engagement in territorial politics by channelling villagers' challenges to state-led urbanisation into a pecuniary discussion of material gain and loss. This article also sheds important light on how China's people-centred planning provides a powerful discursive structure that normalises highly contested local land development practices by giving them national legitimacy and programmatic coherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-310
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Development Planning Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


  • China
  • Hukou
  • People-centred planning
  • Social conflict
  • Social governance
  • State-led urbanisation


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