History in China's Urban Post-Modern

Helen F. Siu, Yale University

You-tien Hsing, The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, 256 pp. $80 (cloth).

Zhang, Li, In Search of Paradise: Middle Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010, 272 pp. $84 (cloth), $24 (paper).

Article Preview

Building upon decades of global market flows, population migrations, digital technology, and accelerated inter-connectedness, the twenty-first century is facing remarkable urban transformations (Harvey 1990, 2005; Sassen 2001; Holston 1999; Brenner 2004). In 1800, 3 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. In 2008, that figure reached over 50 percent (PRB 2011). Such processes are most evident in the emerging nodes of an inter-referencing urban Asian renaissance (Roy and Ong 2011). Eight of the world’s ten megacities (those with populations over ten million) are in Asia. In postreform China, which is conscious of its rising power and eager to catch up with worldly pursuits, city building has reached the scale, intensity, and audacity of a revolution (Campanella 2008; Ren 2011). What characterizes this dramatic urban transformation in China? Who are its major players and winners, and who is marginalized or excluded? What cultural meanings and lifestyles are visibly forged? How are these processes intertwined with nationalistic aspirations, social divisions, and political contestations? What analytical insights and theoretical reflections can we gain at this historical juncture from an urban postmodern linking China, Asia, and the rest of the globe? These are some of the issues in the minds of Asian scholars across the disciplines. I hope this review will provide an opening for us to engage in multiple conversations, hence my citing the works of many colleagues.