Urbanization and Informal Development in China: Urban Villages in Shenzhen


  • This article is based on the project Housing for Rural Migrants in Chinese Cities, supported by the British Academy. We would like to thank Professor Li Guicai for his help and advice; Miss Xie Miaomiao, Mr Yang Lei and Miss Ye Minting (all at the College of Urban and Environmental Studies of Peking University) for their excellent research assistance. We would also like to thank the officials from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Housing and Property Management for their help on this project, and the three IJURR referees for their very constructive comments.

Ya Ping Wang (ya_ping.wang@hw.ac.uk), School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK, Yanglin Wang (ylwang@urban.pku.edu.cn), College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China, Jiansheng Wu (wujs@szpku.edu.cn), School of Urban Planning and Design, Shenzhen Graduate School, Peking University, Shenzhen, China.



Informal housing and industrial developments in the so-called urban villages have been key features of the recent Chinese urbanization. In this article we will examine the development of urban villages in one of the most dynamic Chinese cities — Shenzhen. The article first reviews the urbanization and migration process in the region and the emergence of urban villages. It then examines informal housing, commercial and industrial developments in these villages. We analyse the politics of village urbanization and highlight the important relationship between migration and informal village development. We emphasize the contribution made by urban villages in providing affordable housing and jobs for the low-income population during the rapid urbanization and urge cautious consideration with regard to hasty and large-scale redevelopment of these villages. We conclude that the development of urban villages is a very important part of the urbanization process.


L’habitat informel et les aménagements commerciaux et industriels dans les villages dits urbains constituent des caractéristiques essentielles de la récente urbanisation chinoise. Cet article examine le développement des villages urbains dans l’une des villes les plus dynamiques: Shenzhen. L’article revient d’abord sur les processus d’urbanisation et de migration dans la région et sur l’émergence des villages urbains. Il s’attache ensuite à l’habitat informel, ainsi qu’aux aménagements commerciaux et industriels, dans ces villages. La politique d’urbanisation des villages est analysée, mettant en évidence le lien important entre migration et aménagement informel des villages. L’étude souligne que les villages urbains fournissent des logements accessibles financièrement et des emplois à la population à faible revenu pendant la phase rapide d’urbanisation, et insiste sur les précautions à prendre vis-à-vis d’un réaménagement précipité et à grande échelle de ces villages. La conclusion met en avant combien le développement des villages urbains est important dans le processus d’urbanisation.