Exemplary Cities in China: The Capitalist Aesthetic and the Loss of Space

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Eurasian Geography and Economics, 2019, 60 (4), pp. 376 - 399
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© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Since the late twentieth century, the subject of China becoming urban has appeared in the scholarship across the disciplines while spectacular images of China’s cities, and narratives about their developmental achievements, have proliferated in global media. Simultaneously, the parallel “spatial turn” in social thought invigorated geographical approaches to cities and urban change. Yet at this promising meeting ground, between contemporary geographical thought and urban-industrial transformation in China, research has tended to demonstrate a “loss of space” through patterns of dependence on analog circulation of exemplar paradigms that derive from the history of the capitalist city and liberal political economy. What drives this condition and what do we know about its practices and proliferation? This inquiry challenges research design and the politics of theory to consider how routine adoption of capital-centric concepts for research on cities in China arguably reflects the priority of paradigms in the disciplines and their conjunctures with exemplarity in Chinese society and political philosophy. These interstices facilitate application of analog models, and selective adoption of empirical information to suit them, with the paradoxical result of portraying cities in China through multiple capitalist aesthetics including a relatively narrow range of empirics framed by market-based social thought.
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