Revisit China's Neoliberal Urbanism beyond the Political-economic Perspective: An Ethnographic Research on a University Town in Guangzhou

Authors: Yongshen Liu*, City University of Hong Kong
Topics: Social Geography, China, Urban Geography
Keywords: Neoliberal Urbanism, State-led Gentrification, China, Social Geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Washington 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Extant literature on China’s neoliberal urbanism is mainly preoccupied with its institutional incentives and the political-economic dynamics, marked by the state’s dominance with its sponsorship and supervision of capital–market operation, driven by pro-growth aspirations and gentrification strategies. Meanwhile, confronted with the brutal neoliberal production of urban space, the society used to be perceived as vulnerable to dispossession and displacement. Drawing upon an ethnographic study in the Higher Education Mega Center (HEMC) of Guangzhou, this paper attempts to revisit China’s neoliberal urbanism beyond the political-economic repertoire, and offers institutional accounts. In an institutionalized neoliberal context, this paper argues that the state-market-society nexus is closely intertwined, which manifests itself at fourfold dimensions: (1) the entangling of state and market, (2) the establishment of a market society, (3) the reflexive effects between neoliberalization and Chinese urban entrepreneurialism, and (4) the capital-centric rule in urban (re)development. In particular, the socioeconomic and socio-spatial contradictions in the HEMC case informs us about the aggressive and insatiable production of urban space led by the entrepreneurial local state, who has been bounded by the market-oriented and capital-centric rules in the institutionalized neoliberalization. In the end, this paper calls for a pragmatic reflection on the “hard” neoliberal urbanism in China or even in the Global South.

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