Continuity and change in the urban villages of Shenzhen

David Wang

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The urban village, or chengzhongcun, is a unique urban communal formation in China and Shenzhen is one of the places that the urban villages first emerged. The creation of urban villages in Shenzhen is a simultaneous process with the creation of the new Shenzhen city. The original agricultural villages within the Shenzhen area were surrounded by rapidly urbanizing landscape. To make a living and adjust to economic competition in the new city of Shenzhen, the urban villagers transformed themselves into builders of self-constructed buildings utilizing their personal lots. They also became the major landlords of their self-constructed housings. Over the last three decades, the Shenzhen city has grown at an astonishing rate from a population around 300,000 to twelve million. The urban villages have become essential places for rural-to-urban migrants to survive in the city because of its low rent and flexible enforcement of the hukou household registration system. In a different arena, the urban villagers are forming new economic collectives - the village companies which since the early 1990s have generated great wealth for the urban villages and the original villagers. In this paper, we shall give an overview of some of the key aspects of the urban villages in Shenzhen through historical and social lens. © Institute of China Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-256
JournalInternational Journal of China Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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