The transformation of the village collective in urbanising China: A historical institutional analysis

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46 Citations (Scopus)


As borders were redrawn to enlarge cities by incorporating the surrounding countryside, villages located at the rural-urban interface have found themselves absorbed and administratively converted into urban neighbourhoods. Economic restructuring and territorial remaking have further removed all structural traces of rurality from these physically vanished villages. Despite the magnitude of change, however, the institutional arrangements that define and maintain the village as a collective community of interests have remained effective. Drawing on the analytical framework of historical institutionalism, this paper treats the Chinese village as a historical entity emerging from socialist collectivisation and examines how the socialist institutions of collective property and redistributive mechanisms have continued to persist in the reform-era village. Through shareholding reform and subsequent corporatisation, the village as a collective has been preserved and reconsolidated through the renewal and revitalisation of inherited institutional arrangements. An examination of the resilience of the village collective in urbanising China not only sheds light on the structures and processes of power that have contributed to its continued vitality, but also generates insight into how the “village” or the “rural” should be conceived of in the context of rapid administrative, economic and territorial transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-600
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • China
  • Historical institutionalism
  • Shareholding
  • Urbanisation
  • Village collective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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