Neighbourhood redevelopment and the making of a housing middle class: Can gentrification explain China’s spatial and social changes?

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This paper addresses the relationship between spatial change and social process in China. Studies in Anglo-American and European cities usually suggest middle classes move into a working class neighbourhood and causes gentrification. Such a relationship is not found in China, where the state intervenes highly into the social and economic processes. Using neighbourhood redevelopment in Guangzhou as a case study, this paper argues that China’s state-led redevelopment is a redistribution process which produces a housing class in cities. During the process, native residents received the blessing of the local government and granted access to housing resources after redevelopment. Through house allocation and land rent sharing, neighbourhood redevelopment makes a specific housing middle class in the city. This process demonstrates not only the Chinese state’s consistent engagement in socioeconomic development, but also a very different relationship between spatial changes and social class transition in the country.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Interview of a native villager, 25 March 2010.

  2. 2.

    Interview of a native villager, 27 December 2017.

  3. 3.

    Interview of a native couple, 7 January 2019.

  4. 4.

    Interview of a native villager, 6 January 2019.


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The author would like to thank the General Research Fund of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (Project Code: HKBU 12605316) and the Faculty Research Grants of Hong Kong Baptist University (FRG-15-16-II-027) for the financial support.

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Correspondence to Him Chung.

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Chung, H. Neighbourhood redevelopment and the making of a housing middle class: Can gentrification explain China’s spatial and social changes?. GeoJournal (2020).

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  • Urban redevelopment
  • Gentrification
  • Neighbourhood
  • Middle class