Autonomous Redevelopment

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Moving the Masses to Remove the Nail Households

Professor Deng Yanhua, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics

4pm – 5pm Wednesday 18 May
Room N602, Menzies Building, 20 Chancellors Walk, Monash University, Clayton campus

Autonomous redevelopment is a new approach to demolish shantytowns in China. It draws on the desire for urban renewal on the part of most residents and encourages dingzihu, or “nail households,” to vacate their property. This is accomplished by formulating rules that link jumpstarting community redevelopment to submission by the nail households. Additionally, an ad-hoc grassroots organization, the Autonomous Redevelopment Committee (ARC), is often established to facilitate demolition. To persuade reluctant homeowners, ARC activists rely on emotional work, marginalizing strategies, and collective harassment. Many homeowners, who are initially determined to resist such appeals, ultimately succumb to the power of the masses. Autonomous redevelopment is officially acclaimed as an innovative mass-line approach, relying on a majority of the masses to work on the minority. It suggests a more sophisticated style of authoritarian governance, whereby local authorities use rules, social ties, and grassroots organizations to control popular resistance and to facilitate policy implementation.