A Contagious Civilization

luigi_tombaCentre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Melbourne

A contagious Civilization. Class, Morality and Value’s in China’s Urban Age
Dr Luigi Tomba, The Australian National University

5.30pm to 7.00pm, Thursday 30 April 2015
Room 321, Level 3, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne

China’s rapid urbanization is both an economic and a political project. On one side it promotes a rebalancing of the Chinese economy towards a consumer society; on the other it engineers the new affluent groups as new exemplars of China’s new social and political order. This talk investigates the practical and material consequences of the government’s discourse of a “civilized” middle class on China’s urban governance and addresses the significance of stratification for the overall project of governing Chinese cities. The discourse and practices it produces are functional to the creation of “value.” Urban renewal and the rebranding of traditional urban centers as postindustrial and global metropolises rely heavily on the promotion of “middle-class” exemplarism. In this process two different types of “value” are created. By targeting the middle class as a potential buyer, the state increases the value of the land-use rights held by the government, thus making it more attractive for local authorities to redevelop traditional, dilapidated, and industrial areas, to rebrand them as “middle class paradises.” Also, the educated and affluent groups inhabiting the new compounds become exemplars of a self-responsible well-behaved and “high-quality ” citizenry that embodies the values of the civilizing project China embarked on.

Luigi Tomba is a political scientist and the associate director of the Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University, where he leads research on urban politics and urbanization in China. His most recent book is The Government Next Door: Neighborhood Politics in Urban China (Cornell University Press, 2014). He was until the end of 2014 the co-editor of The China Journal.

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