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Politics between public and private : land ownership transfer in socialist Beijing (1950s - 1970s)

This research concerns the relations and tensions among the state as an institutional public power, the people congregating as a collective, and private individuals. It intends to investigate these relations through two land politics cases in the Socialist Beijing, set against the historical background of the city and Chinese conceptual contexts. Suggesting certain similarities to public/private demarcation, the thesis starts with a genealogy of the Chinese gong-si division, arguing the moral superiority of the abstract ideas of gong over si; it argues that changing understandings of gong/public and the intricate connections between various gong and si embodiments (i.e. state, collective, family, individual) contribute – and in some ways constitutes -- politics. Based on data acquired by archival work, in-depth interviews and literature reviews, the thesis then grounds the issue into two empirical cases: the land ownership nationalisation in the expansion of Tiananmen Square, and the struggles over property in the Bell&Drum Towers area from the 1950s to 1970s. The thesis argues that the significant power of the state, particularly the compulsory power to expropriate land, depends on moral and political authority attained by its status as a gong embodiment, is dependent on: its constant practice of constructing other bodies such as family and individual as si embodiments; constructing private property and private economy as flawed si; and also on its suppression of other public/gong entities, especially the collective and the city. However, it also argues, challenges from the private/si category and from other potential public/gong bodies always exist too. This is reflected in private people’s strategic use of the normative gong in their daily practices related to property and in many collective practices. It is the divergence between gong and si and the simultaneous intimacy between them that generates politics.
CreatorsLiu, Chaoqun
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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