Villagers’ Life Transformation and Community Governance in China’s Land Expropriation-induced Resettlement Neighborhoods: A Shanghai Case Study
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In China, urban lands belong to the state and rural lands belong to village collectives. To meet the demand for land to use in expansive urbanization, the state expropriates rural land from village collectives and offers compensation and resettlement arrangements to the subsequent land-lost villagers. Land expropriation-induced resettlement (LEIR) has transformed villagers’ life patterns, from a horizontal and self-sufficient style in spacious village houses to a vertical one depending on market goods and paid services in compact urban neighborhoods. Through a Shanghai case study—combining methods of participatory observations, household surveys, and key informant interviews—this thesis unpacks villagers’ cultural dimensional urban integration and the management of that integration by various regulatory actors in LEIR neighborhoods. Villagers’ cultural dimensional urban integration is assessed through acculturation theory—a conceptual approach for interpreting individuals’ attitudinal, behavioral, and cognitive inclinations when being exposed to two cultural systems. This study uncovers villagers’ stronger inclination toward rural village culture than urban neighborhood culture. Social demographic attributes, pre-resettlement conditions, and post-resettlement situations all affect villagers’ urban integration. Villagers who are older, less educated, separated from their children, less exposed to urban life prior to resettlement, and more isolated from urban residents in their new settlements tend to become the most passive participants in integrating to urban environments and society. The management of villagers’ urban integration is discussed from a community governance perspective. The study examines the features and capacity of the existing mechanism and new regulatory coalition in LEIR neighborhoods, specifically related to service provision, regulation enforcement, conflict mediation, and the overall management of villagers’ urban integration. The existing community governance mechanism is demystified through three conceptual narratives. The first narrative, base-level democratization, draws attention to the emergence of civil society and civic engagement in China’s urban neighborhoods. This research identifies three areas of challenges experienced by community regulators in leading the construction of civil society in LEIR neighborhoods: (1) limited executive power; (2) staff shortages; and (3) tense relationships with villagers. Meanwhile, villagers’ civic engagement has not thrived, largely due to the lack of meaningful and equal channels for their participation. The second narrative, top-down state control, explores the central authority’s “state-building” and “institutional embeddedness” in LEIR neighborhoods. Given the involuntary nature of the resettlement, the state-building through Party-construction and ideological absorption barely achieves its full potential in LEIR neighborhoods. The state’s institutional embeddedness has also been criticized for its omnipresent paternalism. The third narrative, cultural interpenetration, echoes villagers’ life transformation. Despite efforts by neighborhood associations to assist villagers’ urban integration, institutional approaches to serving villagers’ socio-cultural needs are still very limited. Through regime theory, this research further underlines the capacity of the new regulatory coalition—the state, local governments, and community regulators—in advancing the existing community governance mechanism and navigating villagers’ post-resettlement urban integration. This coalition is sustained by a governing regime that emphasizes strategic networks, resource sharing, long-term collaborations, and co-production. However, the capacity of the regime has been constrained by the coalition’s internal instability and its weak connection with the public. Villagers’ cultural embeddedness in urban communities is an incremental process. Base-level community regulators will need continuous institutional guidance and support from the central and local governments to better serve villagers’ socio-cultural needs and adaptive resilience.
Cite this version of the work
Shuping, 1988- Zhang (2020). Villagers’ Life Transformation and Community Governance in China’s Land Expropriation-induced Resettlement Neighborhoods: A Shanghai Case Study. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15875