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Accepted Paper:

Spatio-Temporality Of Real Estate In China’s Rust Belt  
Dino Ge Zhang (City University of Hong Kong) Siyu Tang (University of Oxford)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper looks at the temporal imagination of Chinese real estate as a spiritual substance. Looking beyond the notoriously unaffordable cities, we identify Hegang for its suspended sense of future marked by its socioeconomic impasse, and expulsion from circuits of capital and care of the state.

Paper Abstract:

Through ethnography conducted with home buyers of very affordable apartments in Hegang who were predominantly second-generation migrant workers attempting to flee the socioeconomic marginalisation in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. We argue homeownership marks not simply a fetish but a messianic or sacred futurity (it is near impossible to afford one in first-tier cities)—once achieved prematurely without the presupposed hardship of mortgage, the sanctity of real estate is profaned. China’s precarious housing market has predominantly been observed in terms of land politics, urban governance, financial speculation, and class dynamics (e.g., Hsing 2010; Zhang 2010; Glaeser et al. 2017). Yet at this historical juncture where housing in large cities has been largely unaffordable for at least of the past decade, and the real estate bubble is at the brink of bursting, we probe how, for young people at the economic bottom, housing became not just a matter of material subsistence but a totemic/spiritual symbol animating a prophetic imagination of the future in the face of perpetual precarity. As many new homebuyers have to face the realities of living in Hegang (e.g. finding a job) head-on, the sacrilegiously cheap housing price is the least of their concern. We also draw inspiration from earlier work on the concept of Sino-no-futurism (Zhang 2021) and how time is suspended at the rural-urban fringe. We observe a similar understanding of arrested temporality in Hegang as the stagnant or slowed time is rationalised as a valid outsideness from the capitalist realism of first-tier cities.

Panel P064
Temporal encounters with global China
  Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -