Territoriality and Space Production in China

You-tien Hsing, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
Datong 2009. Photo: You-tien Hsing.
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Abstract

In this special issue, we have tried to bridge studies of the Chinese state and of the Chinese city by employing the concepts of space production and territoriality. Three sets of analytical tools frame our questions:

First, we use the concept of “urbanization of the local state” instead of “state-led urbanization” to capture the active role of urban processes as a formative force in social transformation and a definitive element in the making of the local state. Urban construction has become the key mechanism of local state building in the areas of public finance, territorial power consolidation, and local leaders’ political performance.

Second, we expand the concept of the city to encompass the notion of territoriality, defined as spatial strategies to consolidate power in a given place and time and to secure autonomy. Territorial contestation is unusually intense when the premises of state authority are under-defined and local state jurisdictional boundaries shift frequently, as has been the case in China over the past thirty years.

Third, we expand the analysis of territoriality from the realm of the state to that of society with the concept of “civic territoriality.” This concept refers to societal actors’ conscious cultivation and struggle to build territory for self protection and autonomy at the physical, socio-political, and discursive levels. Civic territoriality is central to societal actors’ cultivation of collective identities, to their framing of grievances and demands, and to their options and choice of collective actions.

This framework helped to organize the seven contributions of this issue into the following three themes: Territorial Order and State Power, Territorialization of Capital, and Civic Territoriality.  

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