Two waves of gentrification and emerging rights issues in Guangzhou, China
Since the late 1980s two waves of gentrification have occurred in Guangzhou, China and brought about dramatic transformations of cityscape and sociospatial configuration in the central city. Accordingly, the emphasis of urban policy has shifted from fighting the ‘blight’ to eliminating the ‘obsolescence’, which signifies the rise of neoliberal urban policies. The first wave of gentrification started in the late 1980s and paused in 1999 and was mainly in the form of sporadic housing redevelopment justified by city betterment and infrastructure improvement. The second wave surged around 2005, featuring an ambitious urban upgrading scheme with the aim of building a world-class city. While the first wave of gentrification was a modest experiment of marketised operation, the second wave of gentrification is at the core of the local government’s growth-seeking and city reimaging neoliberal urban strategy. Defending the right to appropriation has been a major struggle for residents affected in both waves of gentrification, although in the first wave there was very little room left for rights claiming. In the second wave, rights conflicts have gone deeper and been more fierce, and struggles for a right to participation started to rise. Buttressed by local media, academics, activists, and volunteers, local residents have made modest progress in defending their rights. Yet, it is still far from seriously challenging the power structure in urban decision-making and the trajectory of (re)urbanisation dominated by the elite class and vested interest groups. Keywords: gentrification, neoliberal urban policy, the right to appropriation, the right to participation, Guangzhou, China
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