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Urban China Lecture Series featuring Zhang Guanchi – Rightscaling Cities: The Political Economy of City Territory in China

May 7 @ 8:30 am 10:00 am

Speaker:  Zhang Guanchi, Vermont Law and Graduate School

How has the rescaling of the city territories interacted with China’s political and economic transformation? During the country’s rapid industrialization and urbanization, Chinese cities have exhibited a relatively low degree of territorial fragmentation. This study examines the institutional experiments that have reclassified, redivided, and recombined local government territory in the People’s Republic of China since 1949. I argue that the constant rescaling of cities is a distinctive and underestimated mechanism in the Chinese state’s steering of economic transformation.

Through extensive fieldwork and archival research, I find that the question of city scale has been integral to China’s economic modernization for the last seven decades. The constant tensions between the metropolitan center and periphery have driven various territorial reforms, both before and after the market-oriented reform. These reforms have profoundly shaped the state’s economic development projects. I argue that, over time, metropolitan governments emerge as the primary scale for inter-local competition and coordination. While this particular territorial choice has contributed to China’s economic rise, its entrenchment has ramifications for the country’s current challenges.

Guanchi Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Law at Vermont Law and Graduate School. His research interests lie at the intersection of law, urban studies, and political economy. His current research projects focus on two primary areas of inquiry: the rise and fall of efforts to rightscale cities in China and the United States, and the role of housing and zoning laws in the context of growing geographic disparities.

Zoom Meeting Link: https://mit.zoom.us/j/92743598127


May 7
8:30 am – 10:00 am
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


Presented via Zoom

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