The End of the Village

Planning the Urbanization of Rural China

2021
Author:

Nick R. Smith

How China’s expansive new era of urbanization threatens to undermine the foundations of rural life

Centered on the mountainous region of Chongqing, which serves as an experimental site for the country’s new urban development policies, The End of the Village analyzes the radical expansion of urbanization and its consequences for China’s villagers. Offering an unprecedented look at the country’s contentious shift in urban planning and policy, Nick R. Smith exposes the precarious future of rural life in China and suggests a critical reappraisal of how we think about urbanization.

This excellent book provides important insights into the complexities of Chinese urbanization. Through a thorough and grounded investigation of a peri-urban village, Nick R. Smith produces a lively and remarkably informative account of how the village has been transformed by both state-led planning and reactions from its inhabitants against these external forces. Highly recommended to anyone interested in China and urban studies.

Fulong Wu, author of Planning for Growth: Urban and Regional Planning in China

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, China has vastly expanded its urbanization processes in an effort to reduce the inequalities between urban and rural areas. Centered on the mountainous region of Chongqing, which serves as an experimental site for the country’s new urban development policies, The End of the Village analyzes the radical expansion of urbanization and its consequences for China’s villagers. It reveals a fundamental rewriting of the nation’s social contract, as villages that once organized rural life and guaranteed rural livelihoods are replaced by an increasingly urbanized landscape dominated by state institutions.

Throughout this comprehensive study of China’s “urban–rural coordination” policy, Nick R. Smith traces the diminishing autonomy of the country’s rural populations and their subordination to larger urban networks and shared administrative structures. Outside Chongqing’s urban centers, competing forces are at work in reshaping the social, political, and spatial organization of its villages. While municipal planners and policy makers seek to extend state power structures beyond the boundaries of the city, village leaders and inhabitants try to maintain control over their communities’ uncertain futures through strategies such as collectivization, shareholding, real estate development, and migration.

As China seeks to rectify the development crises of previous decades through rapid urban growth, such drastic transformations threaten to displace existing ways of life for more than 600 million residents. Offering an unprecedented look at the country’s contentious shift in urban planning and policy, The End of the Village exposes the precarious future of rural life in China and suggests a critical reappraisal of how we think about urbanization.

Nick R. Smith is assistant professor of architecture and urban studies at Barnard College, Columbia University.

This excellent book provides important insights into the complexities of Chinese urbanization. Through a thorough and grounded investigation of a peri-urban village, Nick R. Smith produces a lively and remarkably informative account of how the village has been transformed by both state-led planning and reactions from its inhabitants against these external forces. Highly recommended to anyone interested in China and urban studies.

Fulong Wu, author of Planning for Growth: Urban and Regional Planning in China

The End of the Village is a grounded and masterfully executed project on the ever-evolving relationship between two moving targets: the city and the village. It is a go-to text for all students concerned about the spatial question in the political economy of China’s transformation today.

An essential authoritative text on urban-rural coordination and the contingencies of China’s urbanization processes. It should be read by scholars not only of urban planning, but also those interested in China’s party-state, development, and rural society.

China Quarterly

Overall, this book is very well written and has a nice narrative arc—starting from the perspectives of different stakeholders in Hailong, then moving to different key planning and development themes. Smith also skillfully articulates the contradictions generated from China’s coordinative planning and presents these contradictions through episodes of conflicts between various stakeholders, making the book highly readable.

Journal of Urban Affairs

Overall, this book presents a detailed and comprehensive case study of local actions in the rural development crisis and urban-rural coordination program in China.

H-Net Reviews

This is an exceptional book that provides compelling insights on the complex processes of urbanization in China.

Buildings & Landscapes

The book documents a living history of China’s urban transition and leaves the reader pondering the nation’s urban–rural relations and integration.

China Information

The book provides a vivid and meticulous account of the tension, fragmentation, conflict, and contingency surrounding the Chinese state.

Contemporary Sociology

This book is a delightful read and undoubtedly an essential contribution to Chinese Urban Studies. It is recommended to professionals as well as those wishing to gain a deeper understanding of multi-scalar negotiation processes accompanying urban planning and rural development in China.

European Journal of East Asian Studies

The lucid argumentation and enjoyable writing style make the book a valuable resource for undergraduate and graduate teaching in area studies, urban studies, and in interdisciplinary contexts.

Pacific Affairs

The book provides a comprehensive account of planning for the urbanisation of rural China from socio-economic, political, spatial and individual perspectives.

Urban Research & Practice

It is impossible to do justice to the depth of exploration and breadth of research that has gone into Smith’s highly engaging and thoughtfully penned exploration of rural China under rapid urbanisation.

Thesis Eleven

Contents

Introduction: China’s New Era of Urbanization

1. Urbanization by Other Means: Planning under Urban–Rural Coordination

2. Village Growth Machine: Charismatic Authority and the Urbanization of the Party

3. Living on the Edge: Residents’ Urban–Rural Strategies of Survival

4. Coordinative Planning: Property, Politics, and Uncertainty at the Urban–Rural Edge

5. Village-as-the-City: Land Commodification, Shareholding, and Self-Urbanization

6. The End of the Village: Experiences of Displacement

Conclusion: Disjunctural Urbanization

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index