Infrastructure development in China : the six roads of Chongqing

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The development of large infrastructure projects at unprecedented speed and scope has dramatically changed the landscape of China. This spatial transformation has produced a contradictory political economy formed by sustained economic growth with increasing debt. Most research on the process of infrastructure development in China assumes that the state has retreated as market mechanisms increasingly determine production and consumption. However, during the economic reform era the Chinese state has strengthened its grip on the economy and accumulated enormous wealth through state-owned enterprises. This study conceptualizes infrastructure development as a process of state-led wealth accumulation through territorial changes to the administrative units in relation to infrastructure development. The Chinese state has articulated this process for Chongqing—a province-level city with vast rural hinterlands in the interior of China—by establishing the Chongqing administrative division in 1997 and subsequently funding its infrastructure development especially through a network of expressways that connect all corners of China. By examining the process of production the Chongqing portion of the national expressways system, the analysis dissects how the state governs and materializes urban and regional infrastructure in contemporary China. Analysis of data from Chongqing city yearbooks of public finance, and corporate finance reports of the state-owned enterprises in charge of expressways development, demonstrate how the central government enables the process of capital accumulation. Overall, this study contributes to advancing scholarship on the role of the state in relation to urban transformation in China and to theoretical discussions of critical political economy and urban geography. The arguments in this dissertation explain how state territorial governance produces not only urbanization, but sustains capital accumulation for state-owned enterprises in China. The dissertation refutes assumptions that market mechanisms are underpinning infrastructure development, and instead definitively explains how interrelated processes of state-led administrative restructuring and capital investment advance the urban process in China.
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