Property Rights, Legal Consciousness, and the New Media in China: The Hard Case of the 'Toughest Nail-House in History'

China Information, Vol. 26, No. 1, March 2012

26 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2009 Last revised: 11 Apr 2012

See all articles by Matthew S. Erie

Matthew S. Erie

University of Oxford; University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Date Written: January 9, 2012

Abstract

Despite recent legislation and regulations to protect homeowners’ rights in the process of urbanization, forced eviction remains one of the most prevalent causes of violence in contemporary China. This article examines the capacity of residents of Chinese cities to protect their property rights using new media to produce alternative discourses on law in the urbanization process. Fieldwork conducted in Beijing, from 2007 to 2008, a period during which the national capital underwent massive development schemes for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, shows that homeowners create virtual precedents, backed not by the authority of the court, but by that of the media. Evictees of so-called dingzihu (nail-houses) facing chaiqian (demolition and relocation) develop arguments based on the 2007 case of Wu Ping, the first new media superstar in (post-)socialist China. The article, following poststructuralist formulations, develops a theory of “legal surrealism” characteristic of the position of law in reform era China. Whereas social media is equated with revolution elsewhere, in China, the lesson of the role of new media in effecting social change may be one of limitation. While digital mass communication technologies may assist individual “victories,” challenges to eviction face both intrinsic and extrinsic obstacles for collective action.

Keywords: Property rights, real estate, legal consciousness, legal semiotics, legal surrealism

Suggested Citation

Erie, Matthew Steven, Property Rights, Legal Consciousness, and the New Media in China: The Hard Case of the 'Toughest Nail-House in History' (January 9, 2012). China Information, Vol. 26, No. 1, March 2012 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1445293

Matthew Steven Erie (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Dickson Poon Building
Canterbury Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 6LU
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk/staff/ch/erie.html

University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies ( email )

Wellington Square
Oxford, OX1 2JD
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/people/matthew-erie

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