Development and Urbanization
Most social scientific inquiries of contemporary China focus on understanding the logic of the Chinese “regime,” the “state,” or its “political economy,” making explicit or implicit assumptions about the coherence, unity, power and interest of these entities. This panel presents an alternative “grassroots” perspective on state-society relations that reveals the interactive nature of development and change in China and its diaspora. All four papers are based on original, immersive and multi-year field research. They share a common analytical concern with how the party-state actively shapes and is shaped by grassroots community formation, civic organizational practices, emergent identities and popular power, all in the context of Beijing’s multifaceted agenda of political economic development, ranging from anti-corruption to urbanization, party-building among domestic migrant communities and the Chinese diaspora. The four case studies present empirical analyses of the various modes of state-society encounters, including (1) Chinese hometown associations in the Chinese diaspora in Asia coopted into global China’s “united front” strategy; (2) the Chinese Communist Party building initiatives targeting social work organizations and community service providers in urban informal neighborhoods; (3) the impact of the state’s anti-corruption campaigns and rhetoric on philanthropic practices of the civic organization Lions Clubs; and (4) reconfigured relations and tensions between the local state and relocated peasant communities uprooted by land transfers. Together these studies provide insights on newly-emerged frontiers and modes of state-society dynamics not yet documented in the field of China Studies.