Urbanization as Environmental Change: Planning and Dispossession in Contemporary China
Jia-Ching Chen, Assistant Professor of Global Studies, UC Santa Barbara
China's unprecedented urban growth has captured the attention of international media and scholars alike. However, contrary to widespread dystopian impressions of endless urban agglomeration, this talk will examine the city within a broader context of environmental change and governance. Drawing upon ethnographic and archival research and spatial analysis, I will argue that China's urbanization poses unaccounted for social and environmental dilemmas. Moreover, I argue that planned environmental change of this scale presents a puzzle about China’s current development transition. Namely, land dispossession is the single leading source of discontent in China today, and yet it is also the fundamental basis of national development policy. To examine this tension, the talk is structured around two perspectives. First, I will discuss the increasing policy emphasis on spatial planning for environmental governance, from individual villages to the national territory. Second, I will show how the everyday experiences of dispossessed villagers reveals how environmental landscape change is itself a political tool of maintaining consent to party-state rule.