The Persistence of the State in Chinese Urbanism

It is clear that Chinese urbanism has evolved differently under different historical contexts. It has always contributed to state formation while reflecting the national concerns of the period in question. What sets Chinese urbanism apart from the urbanisms elsewhere is the persistently strong role of the state in shaping its character that began with China’s first cities in the Shang and Zhou periods some 4000 years ago. Throughout Chinese history, the administrative function of the cities has always been extremely strong, and this has directly affected the growth of the size and number of cities and the nature of Chinese urbanism, especially the urban economy, the structure of urban space, and the composition of urban population. Traditionally, the Chinese state has always been stronger than either the market or the society, and there is no sign that this will change in the foreseeable future. The powerful role played by the Chinese state in shaping urbanism is particularly evident from the fact that the contemporary forces of urban restructuring in China, including globalization of production, marketization of the means of production, privatization of firms and housing, and internationalization of urban planning, have all been allowed to play a role with the blessing and support of the state.