Territorialization of State Power through Land Development in Southern China

George C. S. Lin, The University of Hong Kong
CITIC Plaza in Guangzhou. Photo by Daniel Villoldo.
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Abstract

This article examines the relationship between urban land development and municipal finance in a Chinese regional economy undergoing rapid urbanization. Drawing upon insights from the perspective of political economy, this article identifies a strategy by which land-centered urbanization has been actively pursued as a means of revenue generation in response to the reshuffling of state power. The territorialization of state power is realized through the expansion of urban space into the rural vicinity and the conversion of rural land into high-valued urban development to a greater regional extent. In contrast to the urbanization of capital observed in the global North, where an overaccumulation of capital leads to a sequential switch of the circuits of capital, urbanization in China has been pursued as a strategy to mobilize and accumulate original capital. Contrary to conventional wisdom, urbanization has not been an outcome responsive to economic growth; instead, it has been an active driving force instrumental to regional transformation. This article calls for greater attention to be directed to the interrelationship between land development, local public finance, and urbanization in the ongoing transformation of the Chinese political economy.