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China's Emerging Neoliberal Urbanism: Perspectives from Urban Redevelopment

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Abstract:  China's urbanization is undergoing profound neoliberal shifts, within which urban redevelopment has emerged in the forefront of neoliberalization. This study aims to understand China's emerging neoliberal urbanism by examining the association between urban redevelopment and neoliberalism. Rather than a deliberate design, neoliberalization in China is a response to multiple difficulties/crises and the desire for rapid development. The neoliberalization process is full of controversies and inconsistencies, which involve conflicts between neoliberal practices and social resistance, and tensions between central and local states. Nevertheless, China's neoliberal urbanism has a responsive and resilient system to cope with the contradictions and imbalances inherent in neoliberalism. Meanwhile, neoliberal urbanism is more tangible at the sub-national scale, since the local state can most effectively assist neoliberal experiments and manage crises. This study not only contributes to the understanding of China's neoliberal urbanism, but also has multiple implications for neoliberalism studies in general. First, in examining the interrelationship between the state and market, it is the actual effect of legitimizing and facilitating market operation rather than the presence (or absence) of the state that matters. Second, a new nexus of governance has formed in the neoliberalization process. Not only the nation state but also the local state is of great significance in assisting and managing neoliberal projects. Third, this study further validates the importance and necessity of scrutinizing neoliberal practices, in particular the controversies and inconsistencies within the neoliberalization process.

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