The Bartlett School of Planning


Xiaoqing Zhang

Research subject

Thesis title: In the Name of Social Inclusion: The redevelopment of urban villages in Xian, China

Primary supervisor: Professor Nick Gallent
Secondary supervisor: Dr Sonia Arbaci
Starting date: September 2011
Projected completion date: September 2015

My research interrogates the policies on urban village redevelopment in China from a perspective of social exclusion and inclusion. It answers two questions: how do policy makers and urban villagers understand social inclusion differently, and what makes a difference in increasing villagers’ sense of inclusion.

Urban villages in China refer to the former rural villages that are deprived of arable lands and absorbed by the expanding urban area. They are built by villagers with substandard dwellings rented out to low-income migrant groups. In recent years they grew in size and were considered by governments to stand in the way of the Chinese urban development. Since the early 2000s, the authorities have embarked on a programme of large-scaled redevelopment in the name of urban beatifying and social inclusion. Ten years after the launch of the programme, it is not surprising to see the outcomes present a set of contradictions. On the one hand the authorities proclaim an improvement in villagers’ living environment and quality of life; on the other hand, scholars and the media raise concerns on the extent to which social inclusion actual achieves.

Following the citizens-based approach in the studies of social exclusion and inclusion, firstly an examination of social inclusion conceptions, as reflected in the Chinese ethical discourses, policy makers, and villagers through the redevelopment of urban villages, provides the basis for questioning the political rhetoric of urban citizenship and social inclusion in China. Secondly, a comparison between policy makers’ and villagers’ perceptions on urban citizenship and rights helps explore the different understandings of social inclusion among different groups. Finally by studying six redeveloped urban villages in the city of Xian, the key domains that may increase villagers’ sense of inclusion are identified.