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Right to the city and critical reflections on property rights activism in China’s urban renewal contexts


  • Hyun Bang Shin


The rapid transformation of urban socio-spatial landscape in China has resulted in an increasing degree of frustration and discontent among local residents who face threats of demolition and eviction. This has given rise to sporadic protests by local residents who are often known as 'nail households', that is, persistent protesters who are fixed to the land and hold onto their dwellings in protest against unwilling eviction and demolition of their dwellings. The presence of these protesters provides an effective example of local residents' out cry in China. This paper is an attempt to critically re-visit the existing debates on local residents' property rights activism in urban redevelopment processes, and to discuss the extent to which it can be an effective strategy. The paper refers to the right-to-the-city debate to examine whose right counts in China's urban renewal contexts. It also makes use of empirical findings, both quantitative and qualitative, to examine how nail houses are received among local residents and migrants, and discusses the extent to which migrants can fit into local residents' struggle against the top-down imposition of neighbourhood transformation. The paper ultimately calls for the need to form a place-based alliance that enables urbanites including migrants to come together to launch an effective claim on their right to the city.

Suggested Citation

  • Hyun Bang Shin, 2011. "Right to the city and critical reflections on property rights activism in China’s urban renewal contexts," CASE Papers case156, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case156

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    right to the city; property rights; urban renewal; nail houses; displacement; China;

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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