Rapid industrialization and urbanization in China has produced a unique phenomenon of ‘village-hollowing’, shaped by the dual-track structure of socio-economic development. This paper analyzes the phenomenon of ‘village-hollowing’, identifying the processes and influences that have driven their evolution, and highlighting the challenge that the locking-up of unused rural housing land in ‘hollowed villages’ presents for China in the context of concerns over urban development and food security. The paper examines the ‘increasing vs. decreasing balance’ land-use policy has been adopted by the Chinese government in response to the problem, which seeks to balance increases in urban construction land with a reduction in rural construction land. The implementation of the scheme is discussed through a case study of Huantai county in Shandong province, drawing attention to its contested and contingent nature. It is argued that the policy is a top-down approach to rural restructuring that necessarily requires the acquiescence of local actors. However, it is noted that failures to adequate engage with local actors has led to resistance to the policy, including violent protests against the demolition of housing. The paper suggests that lessons might be learned from Europe by incorporating elements of ‘bottom-up’ planning into the process. As such, the paper demonstrates that rural restructuring in China is a dynamic, multi-scalar and hybrid process that shares common elements and experiences with rural restructuring in Europe and elsewhere, but which is also strongly shaped by the distinctive political, economic, social and cultural context of China.
Published: May 2011