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Sanxian: re-/un-thinking Chinese urban hierarchy with a medium-sized city

Jin, Yi and Zhao, Yimin (2020) Sanxian: re-/un-thinking Chinese urban hierarchy with a medium-sized city. Geography and Environment Discussion Paper Series (10). Department of Geography and Environment, LSE, London, UK.

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A new trend is emerging in China that categorises cities according to economic conditions and political statuses and that formulates a new urban hierarchical system. This urban hierarchy has historical echoes from several decades ago, when the country was divided into three “fronts” for geopolitical concerns. Ironically, the Chinese character of “tiers” and “fronts” is identical: “.:% ” (xian). By referring to Luzhou, a medium-sized city in Western China that bears the same label as “=.:% ” (“third tier” / “third front”) in different periods, we explore the change of urban political economy and governing techniques that are underlying these two different (yet at the same time identical) labels of a city. It turns out that the two labels of Luzhou indicate dissimilar logics of the state. The “third front” in the Maoist era, with centrally-dominated redistribution of resources, rendered the local state a passive political subject. In contrast, the recent rise of “tiers” discourse has a lot of purchases from the local state. Situating in inter-city competitions, they are empowered yet also impelled to be more active in promoting the urbanisation process and boosting “urban-ness” in partnership with capital. Here, between the territorial logic of the planned economy half century ago and the ongoing entrepreneurial local governance at present, we are invited to further reflect on how the development trajectory of an ordinary (and even overlooked) city could contribute to more global urban studies.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author(s)
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2020 11:21
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 12:19

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