Middle Class and the Production of Value in Chinese Cities

luigi_tombaChina Studies Centre, University of Sydney

Luigi Tomba, ANU

6pm-7pm, Thursday 18 June 2015
SR340, New Law Schoool Annexe
Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus, The University of Sydney

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 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 and segregation 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 its land-use rights, thus making it more attractive for local authorities to redevelop traditional, dilapidated 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 on which China has embarked.

Dr Luigi Tomba is a political scientist and the associate director of the Australian Centre on China in the World (Australian National University), where he conducts 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.

Registration available here.