China: Space Production and Territoriality

DATE: Friday–Saturday, May 13–14, 2011

PLACE: IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor, UC Berkeley

CO‑ORGANIZERS: You‑tien Hsing (UC Berkeley, USA) and Jenn‑hwan Wang (National Cheng‑chi University, Taiwan)

SPONSORS: Center for Chinese Studies
National Chengchi University, Taiwan


Workshop Statement

This conference will be conducted in Mandarin and English without interpretation.

Space production, defined as the spatial dynamics in the politics of accumulation and legitimation, is one of the most productive yet under-conceptualized themes in the studies of social transformation. Territoriality, defined as spatial strategies to consolidate power and secure autonomy, is one of the most fundamental yet much neglected agenda in the literature on China's contemporary transformation. This workshop focuses on these twin concepts to examine the decisive role of space and territoriality in the restructuring of state power and the reconfiguration of the relationship between the state and society in China today.

We plan to divide the workshop into four programmatic themes:

  1. Territorialization of Capital
  2. State Space and Territorial Order
  3. Civic Territoriality
  4. Ecology and Heritage as Territorial Projects

1. Territorialization of capital

Spatial planning has superseded economic planning as the primary tool of accumulation in China today. David Harvey talks about urbanization of capital, in which the circuits of capital expand from the industrial to urban real estate sector. We will expand this account and examine China's accumulation politics not just from the perspective of the city, but from that of territoriality. With "territoriality," we integrate the operation of capital and place-based political power, and treat the occupation and control of the place as a fundamental process of capital accumulation. This session is the beginning of the task of examining the way different types of capital (merchant, industrial, and financial; private and state capital; domestic and foreign etc.) territorialize in different types of place (urban, rural, peri-urban, metropolitan etc.).

2. State Space and Territorial Order

One of the most significant contributions of the studies of post-reform China to social studies is to bring the local state to the center of state theories. Instead of identifying the local state as an agent to the principality of the central state, a subsidiary, or a crisis manager, we view the local state as territorialization of state power. Hinsley (1986) has framed territoriality as 'local state sovereignty' and saw the local state as the site that brings together the 'sovereignty abstraction' and the 'territorial concrete.' To put it plainly, the local state plays a more active role than merely serving as an agent of the central state. Its 'territorial concrete' is an indispensable element of authority building through access and control over land, resources, and population of specific places. The process of local state-building and territorial control is an integral and defining element of the dynamics of the state.

To emphasize the active role of space and local state power, Hsing (2010) proposes the concept of "urbanization of the local state" and argues that urban-centered accumulation has become the key strategy of local state building. Local state leaders seek to legitimize and consolidate their authority thorough city promotion and expansion. Urban agendas have dominated local development policy, and local politics predominantly revolved around construction projects. Urban modernity, more than industrial modernity now defines urban leaders' political mandates and captures their political imagination. Urban construction has hence expanded from an accumulation project to a territorial project of local state building.

In this section, we hope to develop and complicate this theme further. As local states struggle to consolidate and expand their territorial authority at the time of great uncertainty and opportunity, a new set of dominant local states could emerge, creating a new kind of central-local dynamism, and a new territorial order.

3. Civic Territoriality

Territory is often associated with state sovereignty in the geopolitical literature and is aligned most closely with the nation-state. But territory is contested not just between nation states, but also between the state and society. Moreover, social actors develop territorial strategies that may contradict and compromise the state's territorial logic. For example, local governments use urban redevelopment projects to destroy, displace, rebuild, and exclude, while inner-city protesters make legal and moral claims over their rights to property, housing, and their entitlement to livelihood in the city. Similarly, as an urban government initiates expansion projects into neighboring villages, villagers at the rapidly growing urban fringe strategize to avoid displacement, participate in the real estate market, and manage to secure a relative territorial autonomy. Meanwhile, in the remote rural fringe areas, large numbers of displaced villagers lose economic, social, and cultural resources and become deterritorialized.

In all three examples, territoriality is central to different social actors' cultivation of collective identities, to the framing of grievances and demands, and to the choice of collective actions. Territoriality also shapes the results of their struggle, leading to territorialization or deterritorialization in varying degrees. We call social actors' conscious cultivation and struggles to form their own territoriality 'civic territoriality.' Territoriality, when viewed from the ground up, is as much about the politics of survival and resistance as it is about dominance. While the local state uses urban construction to consolidate and legitimize its territorial authority, societal actors use territorial strategies for self-protection. Territorial struggles have become a critical platform for emerging social activism. The notion of civic territoriality brings society to the center of territorial politics and puts territoriality at the roots of social actions. Just as the state is not a homogeneous entity, neither is society. Social actors' territorial struggles and strategies vary in different places over various territorial agenda, such as land rights, housing entitlement, environmental protection, and livelihood in the city. In this section we will explore different processes and results of civic territorial struggles.

4. Ecology and Heritage as Territorial Projects

The discourse of development in China has been diversifying since the 2000s. In addition to industrial modernity, ecological and historical heritage preservation is now pursued vigorously by government leaders. Mega projects of "ecological construction," like restoration of grassland in the west and northwest have received unprecedented state funding and media attention. Local initiatives to build "Eco City" or "Low-carbon City" can be found in all regions, albeit of uneven results. On the heritage front, cities compete with one another to restore heritage sites to get the recognition as "distinctive historical and cultural city," or more ambitiously, the title of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. But the politics of the nature and culture is not just representational. To restore the grassland in the name of environmental protection, minority pastrolists in western and northwestern China are removed from the pasture, and turned into townspeople and farmers. To revive a heritage site to its "original state," current residents are relocated and homes demolished. Protection of nature and culture is preceded by destruction; and remaking of place and history often requires unmaking them. In this session we will examine the territorial politics of accumulation, distribution, recognition and representation that have converged in the green and heritage projects in recent years.



This conference will be conducted in Mandarin and English without interpretation.

Friday morning, May 13

9:00–9:20: Opening remarks

Session 1: Territorialization of Capital

Chair: Larry Ma

9:20–9:40: Wang Jenn‑hwan, High Tech Industrial Parks in Beijing and Shanghai: Production of Space and Space of Production

9:40–10:10 (two authors, 30 minutes): Crison Chien & Wu Fulong, Transformation of China's urban entrepreneurialism: case study of the city of Kunshan

10:10–10:30: George C.S. Lin, From Rural- to City-centered Urbanization in China

10:30–10:50: Break

10:50–11:10: Discussant – Larry Ma

11:10–12:10: General Discussion

12:10–2:00: Lunch break

Friday afternoon, May 13

Session 2: State Space and Territorial Order

Chair: George Lin

2:00–2:20: Keng Shu, State Capacity and Urban Governance: The Enigma of Shanghai Exceptionalism

2:20–2:40: Carmen Tsui, State Capacity and Urban Development: The Reconstruction of Capital Nanjing, 1927–1937

2:40–3:00: Max Woodworth, Urban Expansion in the Periphery: Ordos, Inner Mongolia

3:00–3:20: Break

3:20–3:40: Discussant – Wen‑hsin Yeh

3:40–4:50: General discussion

Saturday morning, May 14

Session 3: Civic Territoriality

Chair: Wang Jenn‑hwan

9:00–9:20: Ren Xuefei, The Urban Question as Rights Question: Remaking Urban Citizenship in Contemporary China

9:20–9:40: Tang Ching‑ping, Environmental mobilization in China

9:40–10:00: Wu Jin‑Yung, De-territorialization and Re-territorialization of an aboriginal migrant community in Taipei

10:00–10:20: Kao Shih‑yang, A Full Circle: Inner City Demolition Waste and Construction of Urban Periphery in Beijing

10:20–10:40: Break

10:40–11:00: Discussant – Ching Kwan Lee

11:00–12:10: General discussion

12:10–2 00: Lunch break

Saturday afternoon, May 14

Session 4: Ecology and Heritage as Territorial Projects

Chair: Wu Fulong

2:00–2:20: Pow Choon‑Piew, EcoCity: Ecological imagineering and spatial planning in China

2:20–2:40: Hsueh Meng‑chi, Historicizing Place in Growth Projects: Hancheng, Shaanxi

2:40–3:00: Du Jingyuan, Transformation of the hydraulic organization in a border region: Bayan Nur, Inner Mongolia

3:00–3:20: Hsing You‑tien, Politics of natural and cultural heritage in China's Northwest

3:20–3:40: Break

3:40–4:00: Discussant – Liu Xin

4:00–5:30: General discussion



This conference will be conducted in Mandarin and English without interpretation.


Crison CHIEN — Associate Professor of Geography, National Taiwan University

DU Jingyuan — PhD Candidate of Anthropology, Zhongshan University, China; and visiting student of UC Berkeley

HSUEH Meng‑chi — PhD candidate of Urban and Architectural History, National Taiwan University

HSING You‑tien — Associate Professor of Geography, UC Berkeley

KAO Shih‑yang — PhD candidate of Geography, UC Berkeley

KENG Shu — Associate Professor of Political Science, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics

George C.S. LIN — Professor of Geography, University of Hong Kong

POW Choon‑Piew — Assistant Professor of Geography, National University of Singapore

REN Xuefei — Associate Professor of Sociology, Michigan State University

TANG Ching‑ping — Professor of Political Science, National Cheng‑chi University, Taiwan

Carmen TSUI — PhD candidate of Architectural History, UC Berkeley

WANG Jenn‑hwan — Chair Professor of Sociology and Director of Center for China Studies, National Chengchi University, Taiwan

Max WOODWORTH — PhD candidate of Geography, UC Berkeley

WU Fulong — Chair Professor of East Asian Planning and Development and the Director of the Urban China Research Centre in the School of City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University, UK

WU Jin‑Yung — PhD candidate of Architecture and Town Planning, National Taiwan University


Ching Kwan LEE — Professor, Sociology, UCLA

LIU Xin — Professor, Anthropology, UC Berkeley

Larry MA — Emeritus Professor of Geography, University of Akron

Wen‑hsin YEH — Director, Institute of East Asian Studies; Professor, History, UC Berkeley



This conference will be conducted in Mandarin and English without interpretation.

The Producing Space and Territory in Contemporary China workshop will be held in the IEAS conference room on the Berkeley campus.

Directions to IEAS

IEAS is located on the sixth floor of 2223 Fulton Street at the southwest corner of campus at the intersection of Kittredge and Fulton Streets. Please find IEAS in section D1 of this campus map.

Campus map


If traveling by BART, exit the Richmond-Fremont line at the Berkeley station (not North Berkeley). When you leave the BART station, walk south down Shattuck Avenue to Kittredge Street (one or two blocks depending on which station exit you leave from) and turn left. Walk one block to Fulton Street and you will be facing the 2223 Fulton Street Building.

From Interstate 80

To reach the site by car from Interstate 80, exit at the University Avenue off-ramp in Berkeley. Take University Avenue east to Oxford Street and turn right. Oxford becomes Fulton Street in a couple of blocks. We are located in the six-story beige building on the east (left) side of the street.

From Highways 24/13

To reach us from Highways 24/13, exit 13 at Tunnel Road in Berkeley. Continue on Tunnel Road as it becomes Ashby. Turn right at Telegraph and drive approximately one mile north to Bancroft Way and turn left. The 2223 Fulton Street Building is at the northeast corner of the Bancroft and Fulton intersection (right side).

Directions to campus are also available at http://www.berkeley.edu/visitors/traveling.html


There are various public parking lots and facilities near campus and in downtown Berkeley. This list includes municipal and privately owned parking lots and garages open to the public. Please consult signs for hours and fees prior to entering the facilities.

Other lots:

  • Berkeley Way near Shattuck
  • Center Street near Shattuck
  • Allston Way near Shattuck
  • Kittredge Street near Milvia

More information is available on the UC Berkeley Parking and Transportation page.