Whither Rural Collectives: Village Communities and Economies Under Rapid Urbanization in China

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Whither Rural Collectives: Village Communities and Economies Under Rapid Urbanization in China
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Karita Kan, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong (organizer, presenter, chair)
Judith Audin, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, Hong Kong (presenter)
Yang Zhan, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong (presenter)
Xi Chen, Sun Yat-sen University, Hong Kong (presenter)


Urbanization has brought transformational change to rural communities around China. While most extant studies focus on the impact on rural places and populations, this panel presents an alternative perspective that spotlights how urbanization has transformed and remade rural collectives. Merging administrative, economic and social functions, the village collective is an institutional legacy of agricultural collectivization and state socialism. Based on case studies in Shanxi, Hebei and Guangdong, the four papers in this panel present original and regionally diverse research that shares a common interest in exploring how village collectives may be reinforced, weakened, or transformed as they confront de-agrarianization and urbanization in post-socialist China. The authors demonstrate how village collectives have reinvented themselves and remained resilient despite challenges, including (1) the collective livelihoods of residents in a Shanxi mining village following the collapse of coal industries; (2) the repositioning of rural collective economies confronted with out-migration as providers of community care in Hebei; (3) the restoration of public life and collective identity in a Guangdong village following disruptive land expropriation; and (4) the revival of community ties and rural cooperation with the external participation of social work organizations in a Guangdong village facing depopulation and loss of gainful employment. Together, these four papers shed light on the different dynamics and prospects of rural institutional change under urbanization. As rural communities across Asia stand at the crossroads of rapid urban growth and sustainable rural development, this panel should be of interest to policymakers, researchers and practitioners.