Yimeng Yang

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Life Community or Enterprise Collective? Comparative Study of the Transformation and Spatial Practice of Two "Village Collectives" in China

In China, many villages also begin redevelopment and community replacement with the rapid industrialization and urbanization, which is often understood as China’s rural gentrification. Huaxi Village and Liede Village have also experienced industrial transformation and housing upgrading, but the villagers do not leave, instead rise to the upper-class during the transformation. They even become one of the wealthiest villages and are officially regarded as models for the redevelopment of rural life communities. However, this article argues that their development is actually based on the “village collective”, a form of Chinese rural organization that originates from the planned economy period. Today, it turns to “enterprise collective” to participate in a general competition for capital accumulation. Also, “space” becomes the primary accumulation strategy of “enterprise collective” because of the collective ownership of land, buildings, infrastructure, and culture. Therefore, this article takes “spatial practice” as a perspective to examine the rural redevelopment led by “village collective” in Liede Village and Huaxi Village. On the one hand, in rural industrialization in the 1970s, Huaxi “village collective” promotes industrial development mainly by expanding collective land and constructing buildings with modern images. On the other hand, Liede “village collective” mainly develops heritage tourism in response to the cultural economy boom in the 2000s, which relies on real estate development and the place-making based on collective culture. Finally, this article also points out that the redevelopment of Huaxi Village and Liede Village cannot avoid the issues of inequality because of its “corporate collective” nature. The villagers indeed lead a prosperous life, but it still relies on the exploitation and exclusion of others, especially migrant workers and urban renters.

Yimeng Yang is studying for his double master’s degree offered by National Taiwan University, Leiden University, and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS). His current research lies at heritage studies, mainly focusing on the issues about China’s urban politics and cultural governance. He is also very interested in the areas of rural development, tourism, and mobility.


National Taiwan University and Leiden University