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Special feature

Urbanisation, the State, and Community Activism in the Pearl River Delta.

The case of a land dispute in Dongguan
Iam-chong Ip
p. 61-67


While the “state-led urbanisation” argument highlights the dominance of state power in China’s urban process, the notion of “local state/village corporatism” pays attention to the significant stake of local governments and their rural collectivities in economic development and urban growth, especially in the region of Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta. Yet, these two arguments overlook the multiple forms of collectivities, including the communal land system, local clanship, and territories of folk religion, and their participation in the urban process. This article adopts a more structural approach by seeing the “urban process” as the socio-spatial reorganisation of and struggle over “the collective” in the capitalist socio-spatial relations of production. With the ethnographic study of Village Z in Dongguan, I argue that proletarianisation is not simply an integral part of the urban process but also the background against which communal imagination and the cellular form of activism take their shapes. Local collectivities do not necessarily share the interests and values of the developmental states but counteract the local states at all levels, thereby perpetuating contestation over urban spaces.

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Bibliographical reference

Iam-chong Ip, « Urbanisation, the State, and Community Activism in the Pearl River Delta. », China Perspectives, 2014/2 | 2014, 61-67.

Electronic reference

Iam-chong Ip, « Urbanisation, the State, and Community Activism in the Pearl River Delta. », China Perspectives [Online], 2014/2 | 2014, Online since 01 January 2017, connection on 19 June 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Iam-chong Ip

Iam-chong Ip is Senior Lecturer of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University. His research interests include urban studies, social movement, contemporary Chinese intellectual history, and neoliberalism in non-Western contexts.Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, NT, Hong Kong (

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