Domination and contestation in the urban politics of Shenzhen

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In its history of urbanization, the literature on Shenzhen has given inadequate attention to the dynamic relationships between the state and the villages. The former is characterized as "state-led" to show the power of the state in the development of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) since 1980, and the latter are depicted as an "organic" or "spontaneous" development to provide cheap housing for a large number of migrant workers. These studies neglect the politicized aspect of the territory, which actually shapes the pathway of urbanization for Shenzhen. Thus, two arguments will be presented in this paper. First, the urbanization of Shenzhen is not simply a result of "state-led planning". Second, the mushrooming of chengzhongcun, or urbanized villages is not outside the realm of the government. It will briefly highlight the context of Shenzhen and its changes in the past three decades. By employing the concept of territory, the paper aims at exploring the dialectic relationships between the state/city and collectives/villagers in the process of Shenzhen's urbanization. It will also trace the proliferation of territorial strategies that the city (state) used in its attempts to take over the territory of Shenzhen for development and identify how contradictions have emerged, as well as how the villagers contested the state regulations at different places and times. The conclusion considers the implications of these actions for future changes. In short, the purpose of such a relational perspective will reveal various logics, relationships, and practices in shaping the politics of territory in Shenzhen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-15
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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