Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science
Between Habitation and Commodity: Housing Regimes in China’s Urban Transformation (1988-2018)

This project asks how state actors, private capital, and societal forces shape the housing system in China's urban transformation since the late 1980s. Against the conventional notion that marketization equals the withdrawal of the state and the takeover of the private market, the Chinese marketization of housing is a state-led process with substantial local variation. To understand the temporal transformation of and the local variation in the Chinese housing system, I introduce the concept of "urban housing regimes" to describe housing-related policies, practices, and discourses that are shaped by multiple actors at the level of municipal cities. Because of the dual nature of housing—housing as commodity generates massive revenue for state actors whereas housing as habitation constitutes an essential part of citizenship and social stability—Chinese cities oscillate between pro-commodification and pro-habitation housing regimes. To explain the variation, I will focus on two key factors: the degree of political autonomy of the municipal government and the strength of socialist legacies. I hypothesize that a) cities with greater local autonomy are more likely to shift to pro-commodification housing regimes and b) cities with stronger socialist legacies are more likely to have pro-habitation regimes. By conducting in-depth case studies in four Chinese megacities, this project not only provides a detailed narrative of the historical construction of the Chinese housing market but also yields insight on the causal relationship among key factors in shaping housing regimes. By situating housing at the intersection of economic development and social welfare, this project uses the case of China to shed light on a broader theoretical question of how states balance between capital accumulation and social protection in the realm of housing.