Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Post-Reform Urban Restructuring in China: The Case of Hangzhou 1990-2010

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Post-Reform Urban Restructuring in China: The Case of Hangzhou 1990-2010

Article excerpt

Since the early 2000s, Chinese cities have experienced a shiftfrom industrialism to urbanism in political legitimacy and policy discourse. This article examines Hangzhou's urban restructuring with a focus on its development zones and Qianjiang new city. It analyses the evolving dynamics among urban spatial restructuring, urban governance and local policy interventions between 1990 and 2010. The study demonstrates how local government has approached urban restructuring to realise gains from the property market boom, restructure urban space and strengthen urban governing capacity. Land-related socioeconomic consequences are investigated to illuminate changing power dynamics, policy rhetoric and their implications.

Since 1978, there have been dramatic changes in the urban form and internal structure of Chinese cities, and an increasingly heterogeneous process of spatial and administrative restructuring (Lo, 1994; Wu and Yeh, 1997; Ma and Xiang, 1998; Gaubatz, 1999; Ma, 2002; Feng and Zhou, 2005; Yue et al., 2010). More recently, since 1992, China has experienced further radical economic reforms. Although the state still exerts an evident influence in the urban development process, the power of the market has increased rapidly, driving land market reforms, restructuring the system of housing provision, the relaxation of the urban household registration system and the phenomenal growth of the non-state economy. Salient state intervention in urban transformation suggests a state-centred bureaucratic system and a rescaled new state functionality which favours the local units (Wu, 2003; Ma, 2004). Meanwhile, the urban space restructuring process has also demonstrated the complicated interplay among heterogeneous actors.

In the last two decades, the urban spatial restructuring process has been demonstrated by the shiftof growth strategy from urban redevelopment and development zones (kaifa qu) to new city (xincheng) development, and characterised by the changing politico-economic setting and reformed urban governance capacity (Wu et al., 2007; Hsing, 2010). Existing research explaining recent urban restructuring in China remains fragmented and the changing factors of urban spatial restructuring in the last two decades have yet to be sufficiently studied. At the local level, research on a multiplicity of new agents of urban growth and transformation that have been influencing urban spatial reconfiguration in such contexts has been far from clear, although marketisation and globalisation 'only come into being through the integration of numerous locally based actors and forces' (Beauregard, 1995, 242). From the perspective of the central-local dynamics in urban growth, it is important to investigate the influence of the central state's macroeconomic policy shifts and policy priority changes for economic sectors on local urban structure, and to outline the implications of the political-economic setting on local urban growth and competitiveness. Various policy initiatives launched by the central and local governments have often drastically changed the context of local urban spatial configuration. The multiplicity of actors affecting urban growth means that no singular individual or agency can determine the spatial configuration and growth process of a city. In addition, it is imperative to examine the challenges that Chinese cities have encountered in quickly reorienting themselves to rapid urban growth and the fierce inter-city competition through urban spatial restructuring.

There is an extensive amount of research literature on a few Chinese cities at the top of the urban hierarchy, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The up-to-date urban spatial restructuring of provincial cities has been understudied, and, therefore, the picture of those cities' urban spatial transformation is vague or sketchy. Hangzhou, a typical provincial coastal metropolis, has undergone dramatic urban growth and restructuring since the beginning of 1990. …

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