Who is the winner? Relocated rural communities and stratification in urbanizing northwestern China

Jing Song*, Huimin Du, Si ming Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Under China's “Western Development” plan, inland China has witnessed massive urban expansion and land development, but little is known about the consequent stratification among relocated communities. This study examines the urbanization process on the outskirts of the Municipality of Yinchuan in northwestern China. Previous studies have focused on how urbanization impoverished or enriched rural communities, while this study examines how relocated communities (or teams) were differentiated in their compensation and relocation outcomes, as a combined outcome of policies and resource structures. Quantitative evidence suggests that urbanization has led to both between-team and within-team variations, and qualitative analyses illustrate why even the “lucky” teams always had “unlucky” villagers in compensation outcomes. Between-team variations were often used to mobilize collective resistance to strive for better compensation, but the rise of within-team variations has undermined the grassroots alliance against “unfair” policies. Villagers were more obsessed with individual competition of property investment based on their wealth and self-financing capabilities, but they also complained about “unjust” competition, such as the appropriation of resources based on cadres' privileges and connections. Although individual competition was celebrated under the official neoliberal market-oriented narratives, the decline of collective patronage and the resentment toward cadres' rent-seeking behaviors have added to tensions within relocated communities and contributed to their fragmentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-168
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Compensation
  • Inequalities
  • Northwestern China
  • Relocation
  • Rural communities
  • Urbanization

Cite this