Local Capitalisms, Local Citizenship and Translocality: Rescaling from Below in the Pearl River Delta Region, China

Authors

  • ALAN SMART,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, Canada
      Alan Smart (asmart@ucalgary.ca), Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada, and George C.S. Lin (gcslin@hkucc.hku.hk), School of Geography, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong.
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  • GEORGE C.S. LIN

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Geography, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
      Alan Smart (asmart@ucalgary.ca), Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada, and George C.S. Lin (gcslin@hkucc.hku.hk), School of Geography, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong.
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  • The research work conducted in Dongguan and described in this article was sponsored by grants from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (HKU 7666/05H) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada). The authors wish to thank Byron Miller, Tang Wing-Shing, Adrian Smith, Laurence Ma and the anonymous reviewers for their critical comments that have helped improve the quality of the article.

Alan Smart (asmart@ucalgary.ca), Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada, and George C.S. Lin (gcslin@hkucc.hku.hk), School of Geography, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong.

Abstract

Abstract

Chinese economic reforms have profoundly changed the scale at which things get done. Much of the existing literature on scale has concentrated on the politics of rescaling from above. Less has been written about rescaling initiatives from below, the focus of this study. It distinguishes three important localisms. Local capitalisms treats capitalism as subordinate to local social and political processes that provide crucial conditions of existence. Local citizenship sees processes of entitlement and exclusion as accomplished locally rather than through national frameworks. Translocality describes the ways in which claims are made on the loyalties of those possessing capital but residing elsewhere and the promotion of the place through image-building and physical/social infrastructural enhancements. These three distinct localisms overlap and interact in a variety of ways to shape a new social and spatial order in post-reform China. A detailed study of the practices of localism in the Dongguan city-region reveals the ways in which the emergence of capitalism has been dependent on pre-existing social connections and based on villages and townships. The entitlements of citizenship are polarized between the local hukou population and the migrant workers irrespective of the national definition of social safety net and regardless of the physical presence of the individuals.

Résumé

En Chine, les réformes économiques ont profondément modifié l'échelon auquel les choses se font. Les publications traitant de cet aspect se consacrent en général aux politiques de redimensionnement venues des instances supérieures, et abordent plus rarement les initiatives venues d'en bas, objets de cette étude. Cette dernière distingue trois localismes importants: les capitalismes locaux, le capitalisme apparaissant subordonné aux processus sociaux et politiques locaux qui déterminent les conditions d'existence; la citoyenneté locale pour qui les processus d'habilitation et d'exclusion s'effectuent au plan local et non en fonction de cadres nationaux; la translocalité qui décrit comment est sollicitée la loyauté de ceux qui possèdent le capital mais résident ailleurs, et comment des projets de création d'image et d'infrastructure matérielle ou sociale dynamisent la promotion du lieu. Ces trois localismes se chevauchent et interagissent diversement, façonnant un nouvel ordre social et spatial dans la Chine de l'après-réforme. Une étude détaillée du localisme pratiqué dans la ville de Dongguan fait apparaître les modalités d'un capitalisme émergent, dépendant des liens sociaux existants et basé sur des villages ou municipalités. L'accès à la citoyenneté définit un clivage entre la population locale ayant son hukou et les travailleurs migrants, indépendamment de la notion nationale de filet de protection sociale ou de la présence physique des individus.

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