An assessment of urban village redevelopment in China : a case study of medium-sized city Weihai.
MetadataShow full item record
Under the influence of rapid urbanization and economic development in China, many cities and towns have doubled or tripled in terms of urban population and urban land extensions. As a result, a large number of traditional rural villages, once located in suburban areas of cities, became part of built up areas. They have turned into the so-called ‘urban villages’. In recent years, thousands of such villages have been demolished and rebuilt every year in a nationwide-urban village redevelopment process. Urban village redevelopment in China shares similarities with urban renewal but also has very distinct features. It takes place in suburban and peri-urban areas as well as close to city centres. Redevelopment of urban villages involves different social groups of village residents, most of who do not initially have urban resident status and live under distinct housing tenure, welfare, and government arrangements. This raises concerns for changes in housing, social welfare, health provision, the employment situation, and local environmental concerns. However, the general drive for urban and economic development has caused the rebuilding of the villages and, as a result, local administrations have sought to implement this process. This research aimed to analyse the context of urban village redevelopment and assess the advantages and disadvantages of redevelopment; particularly from the viewpoint of former rural village residents. The research is mainly qualitative in nature but combined with quantitative evidence as well. A case study approach is used to address the research questions, and a third line prefecture-level city, Weihai, was chosen for the case study (a medium-sized city in China and governed by Shandong provincial government). The context for this was provided by the national scale reviews of urbanization, urban and rural development, which helped to build a general understanding of the relationship between urbanization and the appearance of urban villages and their stages of transformation. By reviewing the background of local (case study city) urban villages, policies and practice, and through detailed fieldwork with local residents and key informants, the research sought to gain a fuller picture of the benefits and problems of village households in a medium-sized city. This research examines the extent, location, and timing of redevelopment, the reasons for redevelopment, the organizations, process, and players involved. Findings are presented on physical and social changes in local areas, and the impacts of these changes on indigenous village households’ lives. The findings present a mixed picture of changes following redevelopment. The physical environment of these now urbanized areas has generally improved, with associated improvements in safety and cleanliness. Former villagers have gained urban status and access to urban welfare and education services, transport and utilities; although the quality and generosity of health and pension schemes is variable. Higher costs of living are widely reported, however, with the loss of the benefits of own grown food and other resources, leading to reduced living standards, and some have been forced to take hard, low paid labour jobs to survive. However, some villagers have benefited from more stable jobs and better compensation. Local government and its leadership has benefitted from the enhanced economic development and associated revenues. Although there was widespread unhappiness with compensation arrangements, it is difficult for individual households to find redress. It is argued that these outcomes conflict in a significant way with relevant principles of justice, particularly those associated with ‘entitlement theory’, and raise serious questions about accountability of key actors, particularly village leaders.