PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2017, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (2): 137-150.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2017.02.001

• Articles •     Next Articles

Urban transformation and the progress of citizenization in Southern Jiangsu based on the perspective of life course

Jian FENG(), Zhu YE   

  1. College of Urban and Environmental Science, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Online:2017-02-20 Published:2017-02-20
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41671157


Most studies on China's urban transformation employ macro level socioeconomic and political analysis perspectives such as marketization, globalization, and decentralization. Based on the life course of a farmer-entrepreneur in Southern Jiangsu, this study discusses China's urban transformation at a micro level and the citizenization of famers in the transformation. Analyzing urban transformation with a life course approach not only links individuals' life events to changes in grand social history, but also manifests the interaction and maps relations between the history of individuals' lives and the economic and social development. The Southern Jiangsu area has experienced urban transformation since the 1980s. In the 1980s, urbanization of Southern Jiangsu was grounded in rural industrialization and town development, which was called the "urbanization from below." On the one hand, township enterprises had absorbed a large number of rural surplus labors and as a result, a great number of towns appeared. On the other hand, township enterprises provided funding for urban construction. But since the 1990s, Southern Jiangsu has undergone a rapid urbanization stimulated by development zones that attracted foreign investment and land finance. The governments' development strategy turned to development zone construction and land finance. Heavy intervention imposed on township enterprises by local governments hampered the development of those enterprises. Meanwhile, as a consequence of decentralization, institutional changes in the land market, and globalization, the local government of Southern Jiangsu can no longer rely on township enterprises and has to capitalize on the land to pursue the maximization of profit. From the micro level perspective, the transformation influences roles, events, and opportunities in individuals' life course. The farmer-entrepreneur in this study was a factory manager in a township enterprise at first, then he ran a private corporation, and finally, because of the construction of a development zone, he became a landless farmer. Through changes of his life course, we can understand his citizenization. In the township enterprise period, he obtained non-agricultural employment on his own initiative by working in a factory. Later, because of the hukou (population registration) reform and land acquisition and resettlement, he achieved the urbanization of identity, which was mainly promoted by the local government. Non-agricultural employment became the basis of urbanization of his identity, in the sense that it guaranteed his income after resettlement. This finding provides an enlightenment to "people-centered urbanization” advocated in the new urbanization.

Key words: urbanization, citizenization of farmers, life course, life story, Southern Jiangsu