Creating Chinese Urbanism

Urban revolution and governance changes

Fulong Wu


ISBN: 9781800083356

Publication: October 27, 2022

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Creating Chinese Urbanism describes the landscape of urbanisation in China, revealing the profound impacts of marketisation on Chinese society and the consequential governance changes at the grassroots level.

During the imperial and socialist periods, state and society were embedded. However, as China has been becoming urban, the territorial foundation of ‘earth-bound’ society has been dismantled. This metaphorically started an urban revolution, which has transformed the social order derived from the ‘state in society’. The state has thus become more visible in Chinese urban life.

Besides witnessing the breaking down of socially integrated neighbourhoods, Fulong Wu explains the urban roots of a rising state in China. Instead of governing through autonomous stakeholders, state-sponsored strategic intentions remain. In the urban realm, the desire for greater residential privacy does not foster collectivism. State-led rebuilding of residential communities has sped up the demise of traditionalism and given birth to a new China with greater urbanism and state-centred governance.

Taking the vantage point of concrete residential neighbourhoods, Creating Chinese Urbanism offers a cutting-edge analysis of how China is becoming urban and grounds the changing state governance in the process of urbanization. Its original and material interpretation of the changing role of the state in China makes it suitable reading for researchers and students in the fields of urban studies, geography, planning and the built environment.

Fulong Wu is Bartlett Professor of Planning at UCL.

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Introduction: leaving the soil

1 Changing residential landscape: a new urban social geography

2 The end of (neo-)traditionalism

3 Transient space with a new moral order

4 Residential enclosure without private governance

5 Rethinking urban China in an urban debate

Conclusion: a visible state emerging from urban revolution


As observers continue to grapple with the significance of China’s urban revolution, this book offers an innovative conceptual framework for thinking about the meanings of this revolution from the perspective of urban neighborhoods with different housing forms. Richly illustrated, and drawing upon decades of research and observations from one of the most prominent and prolific scholars of the contemporary Chinese city, Creating Chinese Urbanism locates the essence of China’s urban revolution in the passing of longstanding modes of social relations and their replacement with new institutions of governance in which the state led-urbanization remakes the nature of state power itself. - Mark W. Frazier, New School for Social Research


In this masterful study of residential neighborhoods across regions, generations and classes in China today, Wu successfully convinces us that China’s contemporary sociopolitical transformation is ultimately an urban transformation.  This book is one of the most illuminating reads in the last decade on Chinese urbanism.
-You-tien Hsing, Professor of Geography and Director of Global Studies, UC Berkeley


This book provides a novel, insightful and inspirational interpretation of the emerging state-society-space relationship in China where an urban revolution is taking place at a scale and speed unparalleled in the world. Theoretically informed and empirically grounded, the book takes us to embark upon a fascinating journey travelling from Chinese workplace (danwei) to neighborhoods, urban communities, and urban villages so as to unveil a phenomenal and restless landscape of greater urbanism and state-centred governance. A path-breaking contribution to the burgeoning literature on global urbanism in general and China’s new urban social geography in particular. 
- George C.S. Lin, Chair Professor of Geography, University of Hong Kong


Fulong Wu grapples with the complexities and contradictions of social change in urban China -- state-centered but creating new opportunities for individualism, disrupting traditional village and neighborhood social relations but generating new forms of association.  He shows the relevance but also the limited reach of general models like market transition, postcolonialism, and neoliberalism.  Like an ethnographer, his approach is to understand social relations at the ground level, working upwards from that vantage point to understand the ongoing Chinese urban revolution on its own terms. - John R. Logan, Professor of Sociology, Brown University


The rapid redevelopment of Chinese cities, along with the vast expansion of geographic and social mobility, have almost completely erased the collectivist urban neighborhoods typical of the Mao era. In this deeply researched book, Fulong Wu vividly documents the varieties of newly emergent urban communities and provides a conceptual framework for understanding a new and distinctive Chinese urbanism. - Andrew G. Walder, author of 'China Under Mao'


Format: Hardback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

299 Pages

71 colour illustrations

Copyright: © 2022

ISBN: 9781800083356

Publication: October 27, 2022

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