Economic transition and speculative urbanisation in China: gentrification versus dispossession


Gentrification requires properties to be available for investment through market transactions. In mainland China which has gone through transition from a planned to a market economy, it is necessary to unleash decommodified real estate properties and make them amenable to investment. This entails inhabitants’ dispossession to dissociate them from claiming their rights to the properties and to their neighbourhoods. This paper argues that while China’s urban accumulation may have produced new-build gentrification, redevelopment projects have been targeting dilapidated urban spaces that are yet to be fully converted into commodities. This means that dispossession is a precursor to gentrification. Dispossession occurs through both coercion and co-optation, and reflects the pathdependency of China’s socialist legacy. The findings contribute to the debates on contextualising the workings of gentrification in the global South, and highlight the importance of identifying multiple urban processes at work to produce gentrification and speculative urban accumulation

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