Course Code


Course Name

Urban China


Tuesday 03:30PM - 06:15PM




Prof. CHUNG Wai Keung

Teaching Assistant

Mavis Siu

Course Description

This course is to review the process of urbanization in China with an emphasis on changes in the last few decades, and to investigate how this process has transformed Chinese society. Starting with an urban population of no more than 20% in the 1950s, China has turned into an urbanized country with more than 50% of her citizens living in an urban environment. What has happened during this process? What has changed? How did the urbanization process affect the lives of the Chinese? How do we characterize urbanization in China and how does it differ from the same process in other social settings?

Course Outline

Introduction: Urbanism and the Rise of Urban China (5 Sept)

  • Wirth, L. (1938). Urbanism as a Way of Life. American journal of sociology, 44(1), 1-24.
  • Simmel, G. (1903) ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ in The Sociology of Georg Simmel, 409-424.
  • Orum, Anthony M (2019). Chinese Urbanism. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies.
  • He, S., & Qian, J. (2017). From an emerging market to a multifaceted urban society: Urban China studies. Urban Studies, 54(4), 827-846.
  • Lin, G. C. (2007). Chinese urbanism in question: State, society, and the reproduction of urban spaces. Urban Geography, 28(1), 7-29.

Part 1: Urbanizing China

Topic 1.1: Before the Reform: Danwei / Work Unit Urbanism (12 Sept)

  • Lu, D. (2006). Remaking Chinese urban form: modernity, scarcity and space, 1949-2005. Routledge. Chapter 3: Work Unit Urbanism
  • Bjorklund, E. M. (1986). The Danwei: socio-spatial characteristics of work units in China’s urban society. Economic geography, 62(1), 19-29.
  • Bray, D. (2005). Social Space and Governance in Urban China (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press). Chapter 6: Danwei Space.
  • Xiao, Z., Liu, T., Chai, Y., & Zhang, M. (2020). Corporate-run society: The practice of the danwei system in Beijing during the planned economy period. Sustainability, 12(4), 1338.

Topic 1.2: Reform to Present: Xiaoqu and Gated Communities (19 Sept)

  • Bray, D. (2009). Building ‘community’: New strategies of governance in urban China. In China’s Governmentalities (pp. 100-118). Routledge.
  • Miao, P. (2003). Deserted streets in a jammed town: The gated community in Chinese cities and its solution. Journal of Urban Design, 8(1), 45-66.
  • Heberer, T. (2019). ‘Urban neighbourhood communities’(shequ) as new institutions of urban governance. In Handbook on Urban Development in China (pp. 360-377). Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Pow, C. P. (2007). Constructing a new private order: gated communities and the privatization of urban life in post-reform Shanghai. Social & Cultural Geography, 8(6), 813-833.
  • Douglass, M., Wissink, B., & Van Kempen, R. (2012). Enclave urbanism in China: Consequences and interpretations. Urban geography, 33(2), 167-182.
  • He, S. (2013). Evolving enclave urbanism in China and its socio-spatial implications: The case of Guangzhou. Social & Cultural Geography, 14(3), 243-275.

Topic 1.3: Urban Neighborhood Governance: Now and Then (26 Sept)

  • Wu, F. (2002). China’s changing urban governance in the transition towards a more market-oriented economy. Urban studies, 39(7), 1071-1093.
  • Tang, B. (2020). Grid governance in China’s urban middle-class neighbourhoods. The China Quarterly, 241, 43-61.
  • Wang, K. (2022). Changing nature of the work units and urban governance in China: The enduring influence of public institutions. Transactions in Planning and Urban Research.
  • Wu, W., & Gaubatz, P. (2013). The Chinese city. Routledge. Chapter 13: “Urban governance and civil society.” Pp. 259 – 274.


Part 2: The Urban Structural Transformation

Topic 2.1: The Rise of Urban Middle Class (3 Oct)

  • Li, Cheng. (2010). “The Rise of the Middle Class in the Middle Kingdom.” In Cheng Li (ed.) China’s Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation. Brookings Institution Press.
  • Zhou, Xiaohong and Qin Chen. (2010). “Globalization, Social Transformation, and the Construction of China’s Middle Class.” In Cheng Li (ed.) China’s Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation. Brookings Institution Press.
  • Barton, D., Chen, Y., & Jin, A. (2013). Mapping China’s middle class. McKinsey Quarterly, 3(2013), 54-60.

Topic 2.2: The Urban-Rural Divide: Moving from Rural to Urban, Hukou, Internal Migration (10 Oct)

  • Li, B. (2006). Floating population or urban citizens? Status, social provision and circumstances of rural–urban migrants in China. Social policy & administration, 40(2), 174-195.
  • Liu, Z, 2005. “Institution and inequality: the Hukou system in China.” Journal of Comparative Economics, 33(1), 133-157.
  • Chan, K. W. (2019). China’s hukou system at 60: Continuity and reform. In Handbook on urban development in China (pp. 59-79). Edward Elgar Publishing.

Topic 2.3: A Divided Urbanism (17 Oct)

  • Goodburn, C. (2015). “Migrant girls in Shenzhen: Gender, education and the urbanization of aspiration.” The China Quarterly, 222, 320-338.
  • Shen, Yang (2016). “Filial daughters? Agency and subjectivity of rural migrant women in Shanghai.” The China Quarterly, 226, 519-537
  • Rooker, T. (2013). Shenzhen dwelling: arrival and migrant urbanisms. In China Constructing Capitalism (pp. 261-288). Routledge.
  • Keung Wong, D. F., Li, C. Y., & Song, H. X. (2007). Rural migrant workers in urban China: living a marginalised life. International Journal of Social Welfare, 16(1), 32-40.


Part 3: Urban Life

Topic 3.1: The New Chinese Metropolis: Shanghai (24 Oct)

  • “Global and intra-national cultural flows: renegotiating boundaries and identities in contemporary Shanghai.” Pp. 67-113 in Jos Gamble, 2002, Shanghai in Transition: Changing Perspectives and Social Contours of a Chinese Metropolis.
  •  Arkaraprasertkul, N. (2016). Gentrification from within: urban social change as anthropological process. Asian anthropology, 15(1), 1-20.
  • Non Arkaraprasertkul (2009) Towards modern urban housing: redefining Shanghai’s lilong, Journal of Urbanism, 2(1), 11-29

Topic 3.2: Urban Consumption (31 Oct)

  • Gerth, K. (2010). As China goes, so goes the world: How Chinese consumers are transforming everything. Hill and Wang.
  • Wang, J., & Lau, S. S. Y. (2009). Gentrification and Shanghai’s new middle-class: Another reflection on the cultural consumption thesis. Cities, 26(2), 57-66.
  • Song, G., & Lee, T. K. (2010). Consumption, class formation and sexuality: Reading men’s lifestyle magazines in China. The China Journal, (64), 159-177.
  • Elfick, J. (2011). Class formation and consumption among middle-class professionals in Shenzhen. Journal of current Chinese affairs, 40(1), 187-211.

Topic 3.3: Housing Consumption, Spatial Differentiation and Residential Inequalities in Urban China (7 Nov)

  • Deng, F. (2017). Gated community and residential segregation in urban China. GeoJournal, 82(2), 231-246.
  • Chen, L., Zhang, W., Yang, Y., & Yu, J. (2013). Disparities in residential environment and satisfaction among urban residents in Dalian, China. Habitat International, 40, 100-108.
  • Fleischer, F. (2007). “To Choose a House Means to Choose a Lifestyle.” The Consumption of Housing and Class – Structuration in Urban China. City & Society, 19(2), 287-311.


Part 4: Urban Regeneration and Development

Topic 4.2: Skyscrapers, Mega-events and City Branding (14 Nov)

  • Ong, L. H. (2014). State-led urbanization in China: Skyscrapers, land revenue and “concentrated villages”. The China Quarterly, 217, 162-179.
  • Ye, L., & Björner, E. (2018). Linking city branding to multi-level urban governance in Chinese mega-cities: A case study of Guangzhou. Cities, 80, 29-37.
  • Wu, Y., Li, X., & Lin, G. C. (2016). Reproducing the city of the spectacle: Mega-events, local debts, and infrastructure-led urbanization in China. Cities, 53, 51-60.

Topic 4.1: Gentrification in Urban China (21 Nov)

  • Newman, K., & Wyly, E. K. (2006). The right to stay put, revisited: Gentrification and resistance to displacement in New York City. Urban studies, 43(1), 23-57.
  • Song, W., & Wu, Q. (2010). Gentrification and residential differentiation in Nanjing, China. Chinese Geographical Science, 20(6), 568-576.
  • Wu, F. (2016). State dominance in urban redevelopment: Beyond gentrification in urban China. Urban Affairs Review, 52(5), 631-658.
  • He, S. (2007). State-sponsored gentrification under market transition the case of Shanghai. Urban Affairs Review, 43(2), 171-198.
  • He, S., & Wu, F. (2007). Socio-spatial impacts of property-led redevelopment on China’s urban neighbourhoods. Cities, 24(3), 194-208.
  • ** Group Project Presentation 1

Topic 4.3: China’s State-led Urbanization/ Politics of Urban Development (28 Nov)

  • Lin, G. C., & Yi, F. (2011). Urbanization of capital or capitalization on urban land? Land development and local public finance in urbanizing China. Urban Geography, 32(1), 50-79.
  • Lin, G. C. (2014). China’s landed urbanization: neoliberalizing politics, land commodification, and municipal finance in the growth of metropolises. Environment and Planning A, 46(8), 1814-1835.
  • Fei, W., & Zhao, S. (2019). Urban land expansion in China’s six megacities from 1978 to 2015. Science of the Total Environment, 664, 60-71.
  • Wu, F. (2020). Adding new narratives to the urban imagination: An introduction to ‘New directions of urban studies in China’. Urban Studies, 57(3), 459-472.
  • ** Group Project Presentation 2

Assessment & Assignments

Students are expected to attend the class and actively participate in class discussion. Students will be evaluated by their thoughtful contribution to class discussion. Select any two weeks’ topics and write two reflective/critical reading journals of 1,000 – 1,200 words each based on the week’s assigned readings (you are welcome to do additional research on the topic). The journal should be submitted ONE week after the topic was being covered. A final research-based paper of 3,000 – 3,500 words with a topic of your choice (approved by the instructor) has to be submitted on or before the end of the Week 14. Group project details will be provided in class.

Attendance and Participation 10%
Group project 30%
Reading Journals (Two journals each 10%) 20%
Final Individual Paper 40%

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at
With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers. Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide. The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.