Whose urban development? Changing credibilities, forms and functions of urbanization in Chengdu, China

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In Chengdu, as in most other Chinese mega-cities, urbanization has been very rapid over the last three decades. In the current phase of urbanization, approximately 900,000 villagers in Chengdu alone have been resettled to urban-style settlements in order to release space for new arable land and to justify continued urbanization closer to the city. This article studies this new phase of urbanization in the countryside and contrasts it with the way in which urbanization took place in rural areas closer to the city in the past. The main focus is on the institutions regulating changes in the use of land when areas shift from rural to urban status. In the current phase of urbanization, far from the city centre, politically decided plans bargained far from rural communities play a much larger role than they did in earlier phases of urbanization that were closer to the city. The high-level political and financial nature of contestation on the rural fringe of Chengdu gives considerably less room for local communities to affect institutions than was afforded by earlier urbanization processes on the urban fringe. Although the fast state-controlled process entails more formal regulations than in the past, it also means less credible institutions because regulations may change almost overnight as a result of political decisions on which local residents have no influence. In the current situation, the article argues, the high degree of state control contributes to the preservation of old rural property rights institutions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLand Use Policy
Pages (from-to)942-951
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Bureaucratic bargaining
  • China
  • Credibility thesis
  • Displacement
  • Endogeneity
  • Urbanization

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