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Undergraduate Honors Thesis: Chasing the Urban Dream: Land Politics, Citizenship, and State Identity in Contemporary China

grid view of photos the character for demolition painted on many walls
Figure 5: One Hundred Signs of the Demolition by Jinsong Wang. photo / The J. Paul Getty Museum

by Blanche Shao ’19


This thesis interrogates the urbanization process in post-Socialist China through the lens of land expropriation and home eviction. Using a combination of law reviews, editorials, ethnography, and fieldwork, it covers four major themes: a) the development of land use laws that were devised as a tactic for the state to expropriate land, b) evictees’ resistance strategies and the framework of performative politics, c) the local government’s quasilegal strategies to implement eviction and their implications to the protest landscape in an authoritarian state, and d) urban citizenship and how the state-perpetuated urban dream led to the formation of a precarious population in China. It concludes by drawing a parallel between the peasant’s urban fantasy and the state’s modern fantasy, arguing that the state fails to achieve full modernization because the very foundation of an urbanized China necessarily and continuously required a precarious population at the countryside.

The full thesis will be available from the Cornell University Library in spring 2020.

Course: CRP 4920 Undergraduate Honors Thesis Research

Instructor: Thomas J. Campanella

Published in CRP Alumni New Blog Posts

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