Despite attempts by the central government to preserve arable land, in 2012 income generated by land conversion in China increased by 46.6% over the previous year, revealing the increased dependence on land of local governments’ budgets. China’s massive conversion of land from agricultural to non-agricultural could be seen as the inevitable sign of a new urban age. The bargaining and contention that have characterized this process have often been seen as the struggle between a predatory state and powerless farmers. In this talk, based on research in Southern China’s urbanizing villages, I introduce different and more complex narratives of such a transition. The institutional framework (state-owned land in the cities, collective land in the countryside) and the bargaining nature of the process of conversion have produced conflicts that are not as much about whether urbanization is desirable, as they are about the sharing of the spoils of the process. In such arenas of negotiations conflicts are ripe, while new, unexpected elites emerge. Their ascent and demise are the result of the peculiar conditions of the locality (geography, history and political economy). Despite the homogenizing effect generally associated with urbanization, new localisms fostered by the control and manipulation of land-use rights generate a increased territorialization that strengthen local elites, determines local rules of citizenship, inclusion and exclusion and further exacerbates the fragmentation of China’s peri-urban territory.
Luigi Tomba is Associate Director of the Australian Centre on China in the World and the co-editor of The China Journal. His latest book, The Neighborhood Consensus. Practices of Power in Urban China, is forthcoming for Cornell University Press.
To allow for informal discussion, the seminar will be followed by drinks at the Fellows Bar at University House and a dinner beginning at 6:30pm with the guest speaker at the Red Chilli Restaurant. All are welcome, though due to budget limitations, participants will need to pay for their own drinks and food.
As reservations must be made at the restaurant, please RSVP by noon on the day before the seminar to Jasmine email@example.com if you are interested in attending dinner. There is no need to RSVP for drinks.