National Natural Science Foundation
Urbanization and the social dislocations related to the transfer of land rights have been the major concerns among policy makers and academics. There is a growing literature on the conflicts around the peripheral expansion of cities in Africa and Latin America and the issues of spatial justice have always been, and remain at the core of urban debates in the social sciences theory. China is evidently not immune to this challenge. The intensity of the tension unleashed by the scramble for land is reinforced by the unique features of its development trajectory: decades of suppressed urbanization, massive influx of foreign capital, unequal distribution of fiscal resources between levels of government and pervasive corruption. The resistance of Chinese peasants against the loss of land has however alerted the central government and provoked its intervention in favour of the former. Yet, land-hungry local governments remain undeterred. The form of land grab may have changed, but not its intensity. The most recent attempt at land accumulation by local government is to "elevate the peasant into high rise apartment". Under this new institutional initiative, peasants who are willing to surrender their land contract will be relocated to a modernized apartment in a high rise building. Such vertical extension of residential space would then release more land for development. This spatial realignment could have significant implications for rural life. How do the peasants and local government renegotiate property rights over rural land? Does the new spatial alignment signal the end of traditional rural community in China? Will this new residential pattern undermine the moral cohesiveness of rural community and thus weaken the accountability of local administration? In other words, with its possible impact on the peasants’ economic and welfare entitlement and political efficacy, this change may herald a redefinition of rural citizenship. This research intends to evaluate the impact of this process. Three localities that have introduced this innovative policy are chosen for analysis: Beijing, Chongqing and Zibo in Shandong. The team will deploy a wide range of research tools including in-depth interviews, household survey and documentary analysis to conduct a comprehensive exploration of the issues. The findings should have a major impact on the theoretical debates on spatial justice, local democracy and property right and significant policy relevance related to the issues of social stability and political reform in contemporary China.
Urbanisation, Economic Reform and the Transformation of the Neighbourhood in Transitional Viet Nam
Vietnam is developing fast and its connection with Hong Kong is very close. It is also the country with which China is often compared in the study of the transitional economies. This project aims to advance our understanding of Vietnam, particularly at the microlevel, by examining the impacts of the socio-economic change at the residential neighbourhood, the arena in which structure intersects with agency. The neighbourhood arouses renewed interest among academics and policy makers in the West on its impact as a key domain for the transmission of shared values and norms and as building block of social cohesion. Yet, the importance of the neighbourhood has been undermined in Vietnam in the past owing to strong kinship tie. However, they have a long history of taking the neighbourhood as arena of social control and political mobilization in the prereform era. The economic reform, Doi Moi, and the associated rapid industralisation and urbanization have brought profound transformation to the neighbourhood. First, it weakens both the capacity of kinship network and the state in providing necessary services and crucial support to residents. Hence, the recreation of neighbourhood social and service networks can be a solution. Second, the neighbourhood is also where entrepreneurial activities started. This often marks the beginning of the institutionalisation of the informal economy. Third, old apparatus of social control at the neighbourhood has been eroded by the economic reform, the neigbhourhood has instead transformed into a venue of negotiation between the state and local residents. This hinges on to the changing state-society relation and connects closely to the development of the civil society. This project will employ multiple methodologies, survey, indepth interview, observation, focus group etc, to collect information on various aspects of the neighbourhood, which include, social and kinship networks, formal and informal provision of services, the informal economy, the role of the ward offices and their interaction with local residents. Such information enables us to explore the changing faces of the neighbourhood in social, economic and political aspects as well as to offer empirically based and culturally specific information on social change in transitional economies. This project can also allow the research team to produce synergy with what they find in this project with their research on the neighbourhood in China and elsewhere in enriching our understanding of the transitional economies as well as on the study of the neigbhourhood.
Making cultural cities in China: policy mobility, assemblage and mutations
Policy mobility is a strand of studies that explore the emerging geography of governance in an increasingly globalizing world. The proposed study is based on the premise that the cultural/creative city is a mobile concept that travels across different decision-making fields and is territorialized in local political and economic contexts. Being an attempt to study Chinese cities’ endeavor of cultural city making in the global network, this study positions Shanghai and Shenzhen, two “Cities of Design” included in the UNESCO Creative City Network, in a single framework for a comparative analysis. The proposed research will explore the question of how the mobile idea of cultural/creative cities, derived from advanced economies in late capitalism, has been channeled to and territorialized in Chinese cities, and how the mutated or re-invented versions have been institutionalized, branded and, perhaps, exported. Deploying assemblage as methodology, the research framework attempts to be equally sensitive to the role of relational and territorial geographies as well as discursive and material dimensions in the ideological and political construction of cultural cities.
The Development of an App-based Activity Tracking System in Social Segregation Research
This project explores new techniques in conducting research on social and spatial segregation. Whilst traditional approaches look at social and spatial segregation by evaluating how people of different socio-economic background mix with each in specific spatial units, recent approaches have moved from a place-based to a people-based perspective in which the actual interaction between groups across neighbourhoods is the focus of concern. This project proposes to develop app based tools in tracking people mobility with GPS as well as to record daily activities with online diaries. This would greatly improve the accuracy as well as efficiency of the collection of mobility and interaction data. Besides the development of technical instruments, this project will also explore the most efficient work flow in data collection, transmission and manipulation. Not only could these new techniques lead to new approaches in conducting social and spatial segregation research (and hence research bids for more substantial external funding, the tools developed could also be useful to other research that requires geographic position tracking and the use of diary in data collection.
Attitudes, Aspirations and Future Trajectories
The experiences, attitudes and aspirations of Hong Kong’s younger generations have become increasing1y prominent academic, policy and popular concerns. In the transition from dependence to independence, from school to work, from childhood to adu1thood, housing plays a pivotal ro1e. Access to affordable and satisfactory accommodation affects patterns of departure from the parental home, household formation, marriage rates, fertility rates and has broader impacts on intergenerational relations and the social structure. Differential patterns of access to housing can also create divisions and differences in terms of lifestyles, living standards and generallife chances within the younger generations. These issues have strong international resonance as young people face more challenges in housing and labour markets across the world. This project will explore these issues in the context of Hong Kong but set within this broader international context. The project will employ a mixed methodology of secondary analysis of census data with social survey and focus groups to examine housing circumstances, expectations and constraints among different groups within the 18-35 age range.
On the Resident Participation in Domestic Waste Recycling in a High-rise Residential Setting
The project aims to explore the determinants of the resident participation in domestic waste recycling in high-rise residential buildings in Hong Kong; and identify the major concerns of the residents in making recycling decisions.
Hong Kong Platforms
The project collects and documents topics and issues related to the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainable development, and communicate them to the general public through the means of education, publications, audio tours, self-guided tours, interactive smart phone applications, websites, lectures, and exhibitions. Discussion issues include harbour reclamation, public transportation hub, port activities, urban renewal and environmental changes -- all closely related to sustainability. This cross-section of issues allows the general public and students to be exposed to contemporary debates about sustainability, and to consider what the opportunities are for sustainable futures of Hong Kong.
A Hedonic Price Approach
Theoretical and empirical studies on how building quality or performance is valued by the property market abound in the literature. While some of them research the changes in property price after building renovation, little has been done on the pricing of safety performance of buildings. In this regard, this preliminary research aims to explore if residential properties in safer buildings command higher market values in Hong Kong. For the purpose of this study, the safety performance of a building is measured by the weighted number of unauthorized building works (UBWs) present on the external walls of the buildings. A hedonic price model is developed for assessing the market value of building safety. For the model estimation, apart from the property transaction data, the number of unauthorized appendages (i.e., UBWs attached to the building facades) in each building under study is obtained through a building survey. Based on the analysis results, several hypotheses built upon the theories of selfprotection and self-insurance put forward by Ehrlich and Becker (1972) are tested.
The squatters' movement in Spain and Europe: contexts, cycles, identities and institutionalization
The Squatters' Movement, reclaiming the social use of empty buildings as residential and socio/cultural places, is a cross-European phenomenon that started around the mid 1980s in Spain and some decades before in other countries. In spite of the short duration of many squats and the fast change of activists involved, this urban movement as such has been consolidated among other alternative, new and alter-global social movements. The present research project aims to know the evolution of the Squatters' Movement in some of the main European metropolitan areas (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga, Seville, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, London, Paris, Berlin, Milan and Rome). In particular we want to explain that evolution according to the different legal, urban, socio-cultural and political contexts; the different cycles of mobilisation; and the strategic interactions between squatters, authorities, owners and other social organizations. Two principal questions arise within this theoretical framework: a) How social identities are set up through different practices of squatting, cultural expressions, discourses and social networks? b) What kind of 'institutionalisation regimes' had taken place according to different urban settings and different models of strategic interactions? Systematic comparison between cities can provide, then, a general test of patterns and relevant singularities in order to verify the influence of the aforementioned four factors (contexts, cycles, identities and institutionalisation) in the outcomes of the Squatters' Movement: political socialisation and participation, socio-cultural innovation and creation, and urban restructuring.
An application of the policy mobility-cum- assemblage analytical framework to the case of Shenzhen
In an increasingly globalizing world, the idea of "cultural/creative cities" has been embraced by many policymakers in China. In this endeavor, the local advocates do not work alone. Instead, urban development policies and policy actors are always on the move, with the latter functioning at, and across, different spatial- administrative scales. However, this phenomenon of Chinese cities hocking onto novel policy ideas through the global networks of actors and communications has only recently been taken up for preliminary examination, not to mention a critical evaluation. This proposed study attempts to fill the gap of policy mobility in Chinese cities by exploring the web of politics in cultural city making in China, starting with the pilot case of Shenzhen - a city that has self-proclaimed to have transformed from a "cultural desert" to a City of Design plugged into the UNESCO Network. This pilot study will prepare the investigators to conduct a full-scale study of policy mobility across a large number of Chinese cities that have engaged in the processes of assemblage of global ideas. In particular, this study explores how the idea of cultural city travels among the rhizomatic networks, and how the global idea and local forces encounter and form the local assemblage. This research attempts to acknowledge the mobility of ideas and actors while stressing the importance of politics in the processes of mobilization.
Gated Communities, Segregation and Neighbourhood in Shanghai
Gated communities have spread around the world including in major Chinese cities like Shanghai. This is occurring at a time when cities are becoming both more socially unequal and spatially segregated. The spread of gated communities articulates with the spatial reproduction of inequalities and generates a new order of place stratification. These processes have an impact on sense of neighbourhood and neighbouring and thus access to social capital. The neighbourhood studies literature distinguishes between bonding and bridging forms of social capital which in turn are dependent on strength of social ties. The objective of this project is to compare the extent of bonding and bridging social capital and identify strength of ties inside and outside Shanghai’s gated communities. Sixty in-depth interviews will be conducted with residents of gated communities in three case study neighbourhoods to explore bonding and bridging capital and strength of ties of residents behind and outside the gates.
A project jointly sponsored by the City University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Housing Authority
This project is jointly sponsored by the Department of Public and Social Administration, City University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Housing Authority. The main objective of the project is to upload government policy, consultative documents, information and statistics on housing in the City University web site (www.cityu.edu.hk/hkhousing). It also serves as an arena for the dissemination of research and archives on housing. By creating an on-line housing database, it will enable local as well as overseas students, academics, practitioners and members of the public who are interested in housing to search for housing-related information of Hong Kong on the Internet.