The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 148

Relations between economic inequality and political dynamics in contemporary China


21 December 2012

Photo by ©peter biarlobrzeski

Author: Di Jiang

Publication Date: December 2012

ISSN 1474-3280

An urban development planning perspective with evidence from the housing sector.

In contemporary China, there are rising issues of economic inequality. As the economy develops with the gradual evolution of the political system, growing concerns on the interaction between economic inequality and political dynamics have started to emerge. This paper is set out to explore the relations between economic inequality and political dynamics in China from a perspective of urban development planning. A conceptual framework was established to structure the theoretical ties among economic inequality, political dynamics and urban development planning. This framework integrates explanations from political economy and urban development studies where the perspective of urban development planning acts as both an external angle to examine the relationship between economic inequality and political dynamics, and a social realm that is affected by their relations.

Based on the conceptual framework, this article focuses on the urban housing sector as a specific domain in urban development planning in order to conduct concrete analysis and test the effects of urban development planning on economic inequality. The results of the statistical analysis on a specific city case of Shenzhen indicate that the development of urban housing sector fosters economic inequality among urban households in the city. Based on the discussion that political dynamics influence and shape the planning of the urban housing sector, the author concludes that the political dynamics in urban development planning have exacerbated the conditions of economic inequality and this situation has become a general trend in major Chinese cities. Lastly, in order to highlight key political factors that result in different state intervention models in the planning of the urban housing sector that affect economic inequality, the author takes a comparative approach to contrast the benign and malign governance in social housing provision of Singapore and China with emphasis on indigenous features and government objectives in both countries.

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