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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urbanization as state building : a case study of governance reform in the Guangzhou Luogang District, China Wong, Siu Wai


Over the past three decades, China’s urban population has increased by more than 400 million. How could this rapid, unprecedented process of urban transformation come about without causing widespread social upheavals in socialist China? With an in-depth case study of the Guangzhou Luogang District, this dissertation takes a micro-historical approach to understand this swift urbanization process and its impact on the transformation of rural society as well as the restructuring of local governance. By examining how the local state, village organizations, villagers and other non-state actors have dealt with their land-based conflicts and struggles arising from state-led urbanization, this study argues that the requisition of rural land for urban expansion was not merely a process of land grabbing by corrupt and unscrupulous local state to facilitate economic growth. Rather, it should also be interpreted as a process of state building, whereby the local government reshaped its governance strategy so as to mitigate potential social unrest and to strengthen its legitimacy in the eyes of villagers. The findings of this study will shed new light on how and why socialist China has been able to maintain such unparalleled and unprecedented rates of urban growth despite incessant land disputes and numerous social tensions at different localities. It is also hoped that this research will arouse broader intellectual discourse on governance restructuring and local government, specifically about the relationships between power decentralization, public-private partnership, citizen empowerment and civic engagement in governance strategies that attempt to realize collective interests under the present epoch of economic globalization and neo-liberalization.  

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