China’s society has been undergoing enormous changes in the last three decades. New groups have emerged, e.g. private entrepreneurs, and new forms of participation have developed, e.g. via social media. The number of societal organizations in China has been growing steadily. At the same time, the Chinese party-state has experimented with different ways of controlling, managing and coopting different groups of the population and societal organizations. Research in this stream focuses on the complex relations between the Chinese party-state, citizens and societal organizations. How is interest representation of social and economic actors organized in the Chinese party-state? Are social organizations in China forming a civil society? Can they voice citizen interests? Can the state and these organizations cooperate in a meaningful way to solve current problems in Chinese society?
Urbanization and migration
From the 1950s until today, the different efforts by Chinese governments to control and steer the flow of people and resources in the country have strongly shaped processes of urbanization and migration. This is also true for China’s latest approach of “new-type urbanization”, which focuses on migrant integration and a coordinated development of cities and towns. Research in this stream therefore focuses on the discourses revolving around Chinese urbanization and migration, the institutional constraints of urbanization and migrant integration, e.g. the household registration system, the land management system and local government finance, and the problems that these constraints have produced, including urban sprawl, urban-rural inequalities, conflicts over land rights and a differentiated citizenship for urban citizens and rural migrants in China’s cities.
Citizen participation processes
China is an authoritarian state, but at the same time the Chinese government is also at times involving citizens in individual political and economic decisions. Different online and offline formats are being experimented with in order to generate input from citizens. Participation processes are integrated in a variety of governance topics such as urban development, the environment, and digital transformation. This research area studies the forms of citizen participation processes and the effects on Chinese society and individual citizens.