Place, Power, and Publics in Metropolitan China: Toward Burgeoning Social-Economic Orders

Title: 1220 | Place, Power, and Publics in Metropolitan China: Toward Burgeoning Social-Economic Orders
Area: China and Inner Asia
Stream: Urban Studies
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Guanchi Zhang, Harvard Law School, United States (organizer, presenter)
Fangsheng Zhu, Harvard University, United States (presenter)
Yang Shen, The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany (presenter)
Hao Chen, University of Southern California, United States (presenter)
Xuanyi Nie, Harvard Graduate School of Design, United States (presenter)
Narufumi Kadomatsu, Kobe University, Japan (chair, discussant)
Yosuke Sunahara, Kobe University, Japan (discussant)


Metropolitan areas in China are growing rapidly in terms of territory, population, and complexity. How do these new conditions reshape the economic and social order? How do people experience and react to burgeoning metropolitan orders? Five papers in the panel, from a variety of disciplines, display the multiplicity of metropolitan China—from urban expansion and semi-public spaces to school choices and medical care provision. Two common themes connect these papers: space and publics. Metropolitan areas encompass a constellation of heterogeneous places—cities, suburbs, and rural areas—but also blur the lines between them, opening up metropolitan space for various state and non-state actors to appropriate and contest. This panel explores how metropolitan space is produced and transformed by the purposeful reorganization of the local state and local power structures, as well as through the active human agency of city-dwellers in everyday life. Furthermore, these papers speak to the idea of publics, or a lack thereof, in the formation of metropolitan orders. The panel probes the mechanisms that allow public goods to cross boundaries and the conditions for semi-public spaces to take shape. It also evaluates the limitations in the formation of the public, as well as the alternatives of publics—accepting hegemonic orders or seeking privatized ones. The attainability and desirability of publics in metropolitan China will be extensively examined in the panel.

Panel Abstracts:
Subverting and Substituting the Designated Hierarchy: Municipal Annexation and Regional Governance in the Pearl River Delta, China
Local government scholars have long been debating the impact of municipal boundaries and the desirability of regional government. This paper highlights how the local state adapts to the renewed socio-economic reality by subverting and substituting the spatial hierarchy formed through certain historical trajectory. In China, economic reforms have challenged the designated hierarchy between city and countryside, which originated and became entrenched in socialist ideology and practice after the establishment of the People’s Republic. While bottom-up industrialization and urbanization bolstered by localism has subverted the old hierarchy, a new type of spatial order is invented to re-coordinate regional governance and reassert the salience—if not the dominance—of central cities. It can be best exemplified by massive municipal annexation as well as the wholesale mergers of cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Based on extensive field and archival work, this paper surveys the process of municipal annexation and its impact on regional governance schemes in the Pearl River Delta, one of the most populated and urbanized regions in China. In particular, it focuses on how regional competition and cooperation–structured by the renewed spatial hierarchy—shapes the provision of public goods in that metropolitan area.

Delocalized School Choices in Metropolitan Areas
Existing literature finds parents choose schools within a short distance from home. However, most studies in this literature are based on suburbs or a single city rather than metropolitan areas. With extended geographical space and extensive connections with other locales, metropolitan areas provide a larger and more complicated context for school choice. Drawing on 90 interviews with elementary and middle school parents in three cities in the Beijing metropolitan area, this article finds a significant portion of parents in the metropolitan area choose schools that are far away from their original places of residence. This article documents three types of delocalized school choice: 1) School-based eviction, namely sending child to schools at hometown or nearby cities within or outside of the metropolitan area, after failure to obtain spatial membership in the city of residence; 2) Local scan, namely sending child to selective, specialized, or alternative schools at a distance from home, but still within the metropolitan area; 3) Trans-local search, namely sending child to larger cities in the metropolitan area or abroad. This article also documents that these delocalized strategies distribute unevenly among different social classes. It then analyzes how the three types of delocalization stem from mismatches between places of residence, places of space-based rights, and places of desired schools. Finally, this article links localized and delocalized school choice to the spatial institutions of the metropolitan area, particularly multi-layered spatial governance and trans-local ties to other areas.

Towards a Geography of Trust: Buddhist Temples as Semi-Public Spaces in Urbanizing China
Trust, as a mode of social interaction, involves engaging with strangers and living with and negotiating risk (Hart 1988; Luhmann 1979, 1988; Seligman 1997, 2020). The paper considers the spatial institutions that allow the formation of trust during China’s urban transformations, focusing on the implications of Buddhist temples as semi-public spaces in a territorial sovereign state. Despite that nowadays religion is understood in broad terms and included in a range of urban aspirations by scholars of religions in Asia and elsewhere (Van der Veer 2015), in mainstream social sciences in China studies, we still tend to dismiss religion as marginal and deviating from the norms of a flourishing contemporary life. In conversation with other papers in the panel, the paper proposes a horizon of the geography of trust as we consider issues of urban inclusion/exclusion, forms of mutual support, and the role of semi-public spaces in China’s transforming public/private economies. Under the neo-socialist state’s regulatory frameworks, Buddhist temples are openly accessible spaces available to the public in general and create value for the public based on its unique spatiality. In particular, these spaces have encouraged diverse temple-goers to assume and exercise mutual care and responsibilities among strangers. The paper discusses some important aspects of such forms based on fieldwork case studies in a range of urban and suburban temples in East China. It conceptualizes trust in the context or urban spatial transformation and facilitates the field of China studies to move toward a more inclusive understanding of urban development.

Public Service in Chinese Cities: Socialism, Globalization, and State-business Relations
Why do some cities in China have better public services than others do? How to explain quality of public service across Chinese cities? This paper identifies two major macro-level factors (i.e. legacy of socialist planned economy and exposure to globalization) and examines the effect of the two macro-level factors on shaping the micro-level business-government relations which further leads to different outcomes of public service qualities across Chinese cities. In particular, this paper argues that the centrally-designed planned economic system was an exogenous treatment that shaped a city’s economic structure and the 1980s economic opening imposed an opportunity for those periphery cities under the planned economy to develop. These two macro-level factors result in two different models of state-business relations, namely an exploitative model and a nurturing model. The paper further argues that these two different models of state-business relations provide different incentive structures to municipal governments, leading to different qualities of public service in different cities. Empirically, this paper firstly employs fixed effects models to test the external validity of the theory on all Chinese cities based on a panel data. Then, this paper conducts four case studies on city of Daqing, city of Dalian, city of Shenzhen, and city of Guiyang to illustrate causal mechanisms.

PHC-based Integrated Delivery at Inter-local Scale: the Case of Nanjing and Chuzhou
Urbanization in China is confronting certain challenges, particularly in the delivery of health-care services. Cities were recognized as engines for economic growth over the past decades, and the pro-growth policies lead to vast expansion of urban territories while overlooking health-care services. As knowledge economy in the cities demands an increasingly skilled and educated workforce, the city population also demands better medical care. One of the major challenges in urban health-care service is primary care – in 2017 tertiary hospitals take on 57.3% of resources, leaving only 18.1% to primary care facilities. Such resource distribution is inefficient, costly and does not meet the needs of the population. As part of the ongoing health-care delivery transformations in China, the PHC-based (primary health-care facility) integrated delivery system has drawn much attention. Most ongoing experiments as well as literature focus on the vertical structure of such practice - the integrated delivery system at the town-county-city scale. Little attention is given to the horizontal structure – the collaboration between two municipalities. This paper looks into one case of such practice - the Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital and its branch hospital in Chuzhou, which is Nanjing’s neighboring municipality in a different (Anhui) province. As the PHC-based integrated delivery itself is a complex manifold, this paper tries to understand the Nanjing-Chuzhou case from the perspective of inter-local collaboration and with the theory of transaction cost in urban and regional governance

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