Territorialization and territorial politics in the urban grassroots of China: A case study of the Dongtai community in Dongguan city

Yungang Liu, Qinglu Ye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


From a territorial perspective, urbanization is the process of the (re-) territorialization of urban spaces, in which space resources are constantly allocated among individuals and social groups. The collapse of the Danwei system and subsequent establishment of the community system in 1990 reflect a new form of governmental territorialization in the urban grassroots. Our study, focusing on the Dongtai community in Dongguan city, analyzes the dynamic territorial politics of government, market, and civil society in the urban grassroots of China. The Dongtai community is situated in the southern Dongcheng District of Dongguan and has an area of 3.8 square kilometers with 62,000 permanent residents, 76% of whom have no household registration. The fieldwork was conducted from the end of 2012 to the beginning of 2013. The dominant administrative territorialization under the Danwei system has significantly been replaced by market territorialization, in which the participation of civil forces has also increased. However, the lack of a mechanism for coordinating territorialization and deviated orientation of the government has caused the urban grassroots to engage in vicious territorial politics with the prevailing market forces, weakened administrative forces, and heavily suppressed civil forces. That accounts for the reason why the community system is still far from achieving the ideal status of urban governance. Therefore, institutional reform should construct multi-agent governing territorial units and mechanisms of territorial politics for urban grassroots management. The role of the government should be transformed from regulator to mediator of territorial structure, which in turn will motivate the civil forces to participate in urban governance, create diverse mediums of territorial politics, and prevent administrative and capital powers from over-permeating into the daily spaces. Resident-rights groups (e.g., owner committee) and indirect administrative territorialization (e.g., official means of laws, institutions, and planning) should be explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-296
Number of pages14
JournalDili Xuebao/Acta Geographica Sinica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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