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Special Feature


Natacha Aveline-Dubach
Translated by N. Jayaram
p. 2-2


China is undergoing intense urbanisation at a rate largely surpassing anything Asia has experienced and the magnitude of which might well have a lasting effect on the global economy. Some 350 million rural residents are expected to move into urban areas by 2025. If current trends persist, 221 cities could have populations surpassing one million by 2025 – against 35 in Europe now – of which 23 could have more than five million. This urbanisation phenomenon poses a major challenge to the building industry and opens up formidable investment potential. In dealing with real estate issues in China, academic literature has largely focused on land use as a means of capital accumulation by local authorities, conflicts over expropriation procedures, or distortions in land use – especially wasteful use of farmland. However, little is known of the workings of property markets and the modalities of action in that industry. This special feature aims to open new paths of reflection on the structuring effects of property dynamics in China’s urbanisation.

Rooted in Deng Xiaoping-era reforms, China’s property market really took off in the 1990s with the growth of a private housing market. In just a few years, official steps to externalise the real estate of work units transformed thousands of people into owner-occupants. This has been accompanied by a marked rise in property prices in coastal cities. Is this because of speculative activities, or do these spurts stem from the Chinese productive system’s economic performance? The media have reported on extreme instances of real estate oversupply in several places, the most spectacular being the Ordos “ghost city” in Inner Mongolia. Mylène Gaulard notes these supplydemand distortions and defends the bubble hypothesis. She points to the abnormally high property-price/income ratio and to rising real estate debt in the Chinese economy. She traces the origin of speculative activities to 1994, when there was a convergence of fiscal recentralisation, an upsurge in local collectives’ indebtedness based on land collateral, and housing commodification…

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Bibliographical reference

Natacha Aveline-Dubach, « Editorial », China Perspectives, 2013/2 | 2013, 2-2.

Electronic reference

Natacha Aveline-Dubach, « Editorial », China Perspectives [Online], 2013/2 | 2013, Online since 01 June 2013, connection on 23 June 2018. URL :

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About the author

Natacha Aveline-Dubach

Natacha Aveline-Dubach is CNRS Research Director, Laboratoire Géographie-Cités, University of Paris 1/Paris 7.

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