China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This article explores the construction of urban villages in China’s northeastern Tibet. China’s unprecedented urban growth has been mainly driven by administrative reclassification, urban infrastructural investment, and rural-urban labor migration. China’s urbanization is manifest not only in towns and cities, however, but also in farming villages. Urbanization is in practice now occurring so-called “rural” areas. Based on participant observation and semi-structured interviews conducted in a Tibetan farming village in Guide County, Qinghai Province from 2016 to 2018, this paper examines the social and political processes of urban village production in a rural setting. My analysis focuses on meili xiangcun, orBeautiful Countryside,a state development project launched in Qinghai in 2015. Through the lens of such development policies, I examine the ways that state policies drive and produce village urbanization. Tibetan farmers in Guide County are replacing their traditional adobe houses with new ones they see as “modern.” Village and county governments encourage this reconstruction by supporting it with cash subsidies. These subsidies are in turn funded by the provincial government, which has invested a large amount of capital to recreate villages as the Beautiful Countryside. The result is villages with new housing, paved two-lane roads, and permanent street lights. By analyzing the construction of meili xiangcun and asking villagers about their participation in and their attitudes towards the beautifying project, this paper argues that the statist production of urban villages in Tibetan areas is a means of rural governance and social regulation.