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Accepted Paper:

Living in the housing bubble: Chinese households’ lived experience of mortgage indebtedness and the emerging housing-based activism in China.  
Tianzi Li

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on connecting the Chinese political-economic dynamics promoting housing financialisation to Chinese households’ everyday practices of mortgage indebtedness. It then examines how the indebted subjectivity can possibly be subverted through housing/mortgage-based grass-root activism.

Paper long abstract:

The Chinese housing boom has turned millions of Chinese urban residents into ‘mortgage slaves’ - spending more than 70% of their disposable income on repaying mortgage debt. Empirically the paper presents the largely overlooked everyday experience of mortgage indebtedness in the context of the Chinese housing boom, including reasons people contract mortgages, techniques employed to manage repayments, and ways in which mortgages are ‘worn’ into the lives of Chinese individuals and embedded in family dynamics (Seigworth, 2016). Operationalising a biopolitical reading of debt, the paper explores the strategies and relationships through which mortgages acted as a technology of power in the Chinese context and underlines how mortgages operate through a subjective process rooted in the perceived importance of homeownership.

The paper will then offer a detailed account of the lived experience of a ‘housing bust’ - when many apartment construction sites suddenly shut down in China and people’s mortgaged dream homes become indefinitely abandoned half-finished buildings. In particular, it reveals mortgagers’ changing relationships with the bank, the local state and the land developer as they struggle to pay their mortgage monthly instalments amidst unemployment, financial precarity and the unexpected bankruptcy of property companies. Most importantly, the paper aims to analyse the extent to which the pervasive subjectivity of the ‘indebted man’ (Lazzarato, 2012) can be disrupted through grass-root collective property-based activism against the pro-growth coalition among the government, financial entities and real estate companies, and to find out new forms of subjectivity emerged within the process.

Panel Res02b
Between governance and resistance: coping with financial precarity and (over)indebtedness II
  Session 1 Wednesday 23 June, 2021, -