“Modernizing Rural China” Network Meeting and Workshop

After a long break, the international network “Modernizing Rural China” in September 2022 could finally convene again, this time in the beautiful “Mols Bjerge” National Park in northern Denmark. In the “hyggelig” atmosphere of a renovated farmhouse (Mols Laboratory), researchers discussed how to proceed with empirical research on rural China in times of Covid-19 and political uncertainties. Although the challenges are many, and most field research had been interrupted, participants had used the times of restricted access to rural China for going back to previous data, and designing new projects.

Participants included Mikkel Bunkenborg (University of Copenhagen), Jørgen Delman (University of Copenhagen), John Donaldson (Singapore Management University), Anders S. Hansen (Aarhus University), Lena Kaufmann (University of Zurich), Kristen Looney (Georgetown University), Elena Meyer-Clement (University of Copenhagen), Mads V. Nielsen, Stig Thøgersen (Aarhus University), René Trappel (University of Freiburg), Zhao Yue (University of Melbourne), Francesco Zaratin (University of Vienna), Jesper Zeuthen (Aalborg University), and Zhu Wei (Aarhus University).

Paper presentations focused on the question of environmental sustainability in Guizhou’s big data projects (Donaldson), digitalization attempts in agriculture (Kaufmann), public intellectuals’ conceptualization of ‘peasants’ (Zaratin), trust and distrust in alternative food networks (Hansen), the politics of organic certification (Zhao), college-graduate village officials (Looney), and the fight against Covid-19 in the countryside (Trappel & Guo). Other presentations discussed new projects, such as on high-tech state moralism and popular surveillance (Zhu/Hansen), and projects in the planning or application phase, such as on hosting and guesting (Bunkenborg), the centralized governing of rural urbanization (Meyer-Clement), and automated decision-making and village banks (Zeuthen).

The lively discussions across disciplinary boundaries were immensely fruitful, and overall reflected the joy of coming together again from different parts of the world to discuss the issue of China’s rural modernization. We plan on holding the next meeting in February 2024 in Singapore.

(Photo source: René Trappel)

Public lecture: Revitalizing the Countryside — East Asian Approaches

Public lecture at University of Copenhagen featuring talks by Elena Meyer-Clement and Cornelia Reiher (Freie Universität Berlin).

May 5th, 2022 14:00-15:30 at University of Copenhagen, South Campus

The question of how to revitalize rural areas has made it onto the agenda of policymakers worldwide. One key factor for successfully reversing the traditional dynamic of rural resource exploitation and for turning rural areas into spaces of economic innovation, are human resources. However, attracting talent to rural areas has proven difficult. The talks look at dynamics of internal migration and approaches of rural revitalization by central and local governments in Japan and China. With their focus on internal migration, they shed light on practices and challenges of managing populations in the two countries and highlight the underlying ideas about who constitutes the „ideal in-migrant”.

Can migrants revitalize Japan’s countryside? Governmental promotion of urban-rural migration in Northern Kyushu (Cornelia Reiher, Freie Universität Berlin)

Who shall revitalize China’s countryside? China’s “Rural Revitalization Strategy” and new trends in governmental regulation of internal migration (Elena Meyer-Clement, University of Copenhagen)

For further details, see: https://www.thinkchina.ku.dk/events/revitalizing-the-countryside/

New Event: Seminar on Agrarian Futures in China on October 29, 2021

Organized by the China and global Development Network, Department of Applied Social Sciences of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, this seminar brings together thee presentations on the topic of agrarian futures in China. The presenters are drawn from the participants of a recent topical issue of China Perspectives on agrarian futures, co-edited by Karita Kan and René Trappel. René is also one of the presenters.

New publication: The Political Opportunity Structure of Chinese Villages: A Case Study of Rightful Resistance in Northwest China

Together with Dr. Guo Pengpeng and Prof. Dr. Han Guoming, both long-term cooperation partners at the School of Management, Lanzhou University in Gansu Province, René Trappel published an article in the latest issue of Asian Perspective (45, 3, Summer 2021) on political opportunity structures and “rightful resistance” in rural China. 

For more information see https://muse.jhu.edu/article/800603.

New publication: “Negotiating Agrarian Futures in China”

The special feature “Negotiating Agrarian Futures in China” under the guest editorship of Karita Kan, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and René Trappel, University of Freiburg, has been published in the latest issue of China Perspectives (2021/2). The feature also includes an article by René Trappel on state-led agrarian change in Gansu Province (“From Peasant to Elite: Reshaping Agriculture in Gansu Province”), which is provided in open access. 

New publication: Global city competition and new hierarchies of urban citizenship in China’s migration regime

Elena Meyer-Clement and Xiang Wang published a new chapter titled “Global city competition and new hierarchies of urban citizenship in China’s migration regime” in the book Immigration Governance in East Asia: Norm Diffusion, Politics of Identity, Citizenship. The book is edited by Gunter Schubert, Franziska Plümmer and Anastasiya Bayok. It analyzes immigration policies in contemporary East Asia and it is included in the Routledge Series on Asian Migration.

The chapter discusses China’s evolving approach to governing migration in its cities under the conditions of national and global city competition. It investigates how China’s central and local governments steer who becomes an urban citizen and whether there are signs of an integrated approach of governing immigration and internal migration. The analysis shows that on the national level, there is high alignment among recent immigration policies with the rationales of internal migration policies. There is a two-pronged approach in both policy areas: attracting skilled and educated foreigners and migrants on the one hand, and strengthening the governance of unwanted individuals on the other. The chapter presents two cases studies of Shanghai and Yiwu. The analysis shows that the existing hierarchical order of exclusion and inclusion in China’s local citizenship regimes has been reinforced by the diffusion of global norms of urban restructuring and city competition. Meanwhile, the differences between the two cases reveal that China’s central–local relations and the administrative rank of Chinese cities are important factors for understanding how global norms of capital restructuring and city rescaling affect China’s urban migration regimes.

New special issue on China’s rural urbanization

A new special issue, co-edited by Elena Meyer-Clement and Jesper Willaing Zeuthen, with contributions from the first workshop of the “Modernizing Rural China” network has been published in China Information, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2020.

Meyer-Clement, E., & Zeuthen, J. W. (2020). China’s rural urbanization and the state: Putting the countryside first? China Information. https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X20923240

Yep, R. (2019). Local alliances in rural urbanization: Land transfer in contemporary China. China Information. https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X19865978

Meyer-Clement, E. (2019). Rural urbanization under Xi Jinping: From rapid community building to steady urbanization? China Information. https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X19875931

Zeuthen, J. W. (2020). Rescaling China’s rural–urban frontier: Exception as norm in the access to development. China Information. https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X20920817

Wilczak, J. (2020). Leveraging land values for rural development in China after the Sichuan earthquake. China Information. https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X20928903

Wang, D., & Christiansen, F. (2019). The pursuit of new citizenship by peri-urban residents in China: Status, rights, and individual choice. China Information. https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X19835455

Pils, E. (2020). From authoritarian development to totalist urban reordering: The Daxing forced evictions case. China Information, 34(2), 270–290. https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X20929590

New publication: Permits, Points, and Permanent Household Registration: Recalibrating Hukou Policy under “Top-Level Design

Xiang Wang has published a new article with SAGE Publishing and Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, titled “Permits, Points, and Permanent Household Registration: Recalibrating Hukou Policy under “Top-Level Design””.

China’s New-type Urbanisation Plan heralded a new phase of reform of the household registration (hukou) system and initiated a nation-wide reconfiguration of hukou policy in Chinese cities. This study reveals that the former localisation of hukou policymaking has been brought to greater uniformity under the current central guidelines. The liberalisation of hukou conversion has been expanded to many large cities that previously employed selective migrant integration policies. Mega-cities have recalibrated the selection criteria for new citizens, elevating the importance of settlement duration and moderating the importance of educational and professional qualifications. Case studies in Guangdong further reveal the dynamic interactions among different levels of government in the course of reform. Local policy experimentations set important precedents for central policymaking, and the central guidelines are enforcing new adjustments in local implementation. The provincial government plays a prominent role in coordinating top-down directives and local conditions.

The OnlineFirst version of the full article is available here.

Project meeting January 2020

A project meeting was held at Freie Universität Berlin on January 17, 2020. All three members of the DFG research project team, Elena Meyer-Clement, René Trappel and Xiang Wang attended the meeting.

In the morning, Xiang Wang presented the preliminary findings from her four-month fieldwork about the redevelopment of urban villages (chengzhongcun) in Guangzhou. Prof. Bettina Gransow from the Chinese Studies department and Kimiko Suda, a recent PhD graduate, also joined the presentation and the discussion session thereafter.

In the afternoon, Elena presented her fieldwork findings in Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Afterwards, the project team shared their latest publications and upcoming plans for fieldwork, conferences and publications.