Dwelling, labour, and Enclosure in China’s Poverty Resettlements

Dr Sarah Rogers

1The Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

The practice of resettling poor people has expanded dramatically under Xi Jinping’s Targeted Poverty Alleviation campaign. Nearly 10 million people are being resettled across China to help achieve the goal of eliminating absolute poverty by 2020. In contrast to past practice, the majority of these projects are now envisaged by the government as a managed transition from rural to urban, with village residents moved into urban-like consolidated communities and encouraged to replace farming with wage labour. In this paper I will examine the implementation of such projects in southern Shaanxi and the extent to which this break between the rural and the urban is actually achieved. I will first outline the overlapping motivations for poverty resettlement, and then discuss its implications in terms of dwelling, labour, and enclosure. I will argue that people’s everyday lives complicate the rural/urban binary envisaged through these interventions.


Wenjing Zhang is a PhD student in the School of Geography, University of Melbourne. Her research is about the relationship between water availability and urban development, with a focus on the provision of water for the new city of Xiongan. Dr Sarah Rogers is a Lecturer in the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. She is a human geographer who studies hydropolitics, agrarian change, and poverty alleviation in China. Dr Vanessa Lamb is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography, University of Melbourne. She is a human geographer researching human-environment interactions, international water politics, and political ecology of Southeast Asia. Matthew J. Currell is an associate professor of environmental engineering at RMIT University whose research focusses on groundwater quality and sustainability, particularly in China. He received his PhD in 2011 from Monash University, focussed on the groundwater quality and quantity impacts of intensive irrigation with groundwater in northern China. Professor Mark Wang is a human geographer whose interests include urbanisation in East Asia, and development and environmental issues in China.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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