Beyond neoliberal urbanism: Assembling fluid gentrification through informal housing upgrading programs in Shenzhen, China

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Over the past decade, Chinese metropolitan cities, Shenzhen included, have waged large-scale gentrification campaigns through land appropriation and demolition of old neighborhoods, resulting in the financialization of the urban property market. Since 2018, however, a new gentrification scheme under the rubric “comprehensive improvement” has been introduced in Shenzhen, in which the rehabilitation and formalization of informal housing arrangements in urban villages, instead of sweeping demolition, have become the focus. Based on fieldwork in a migrant community experiencing gentrification, I argue that the new gentrification scheme is fluid in the sense that, first, it comprises an assemblage of heterogenous actors, socialist institutions, market mechanisms, and a development regime. Even though the relationships between these components are not stable, this assemblage of factors enables the state to maintain some degree of power that it uses to regulate and channel the capital involved in the scheme. Second, gentrification is not a coherent process driven by a single force inevitably towards neoliberalism. Rather, it serves multiple purposes. Other than capital accumulation, fluid gentrification also functions as infrastructure for incorporating young professionals into state-led development. Fluid gentrification therefore goes beyond neoliberalism, pioneering a post-industrial mode of urban regeneration that is unstable, temporal and flexible in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103111
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • China
  • Gentrification
  • Human capital accumulation
  • Informal housing
  • Neoliberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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