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The Government Next DoorNeighborhood Politics in Urban China$
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Luigi Tomba

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452826

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452826.001.0001

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A Contagious Civilization

A Contagious Civilization

Community, Exemplarism, and Suzhi

(p.141) 5 A Contagious Civilization
The Government Next Door

Luigi Tomba

Cornell University Press

This chapter investigates the practical and material consequences of the dominant discourse of a “civilized” middle class on China's urban governance, and addresses the significance of the newly emerging neighborhood-based stratification for the overall project of governing Chinese cities. It shows that the discourse and practices it produces are functional to the creation of “value.” Urban renewal and the rebranding of traditional urban centers as postindustrial and global metropolises rely heavily on the promotion of “middle-class” exemplarism. The “values” produced through this process are both monetary and political. By targeting the middle class as potential buyers, the state increases the value of use rights, thus encouraging local governments to redevelop traditional, dilapidated, and industrial areas in the city center to rebrand them as “middle-class paradises.” The educated and affluent groups inhabiting the new compounds also become exemplars of a self-responsible, well-behaved, and “high-suzhi” (quality) citizenry that embodies the values of the civilizing project China embarked on.

Keywords:   middle class, Chinese neighborhoods, neighborhood governance, social stratification, social policy

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