The Reach of the State: Work Units, Family Ties and 'Harmonious Demolition'

The China Journal, No. 74 (July 2015), pp. 1-17

17 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2014 Last revised: 17 Jun 2015

See all articles by Kevin J. O'Brien

Kevin J. O'Brien

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Yanhua Deng

Department of Sociology, Nanjing Universtiy

Date Written: June 16, 2015

Abstract

When faced with homeowners who refuse to accept appropriation of their property, local authorities often use family ties to extend the state's reach. To complete urban renewal, municipal demolition offices turn to resisters’ relatives who work for government bureaus, state-owned factories, schools, and hospitals. Under pressure and the threat of sanctions, many work-unit members agree to cajole their family members into signing demolition agreements, often by tapping into "feelings of affection" and emotional blackmail. Beyond emptying a neighborhood, "harmonious demolition" has many consequences: it can turn relatives against each other, lead to divorce, and produce disillusionment and anger. Although "demolition by implicating family members" was banned in 2010, it continues. Using vertical ties to pressure unit members and horizontal ties to influence relatives does not herald a softer authoritarianism, but instead alienates homeowners and work-unit members alike.

Keywords: China, land, expropriation, demolition, work units, social ties

JEL Classification: Q18, R14, P30, P20, O53, N45, K42, I18, H82, D73, D74

Suggested Citation

O'Brien, Kevin J. and Deng, Yanhua, The Reach of the State: Work Units, Family Ties and 'Harmonious Demolition' (June 16, 2015). The China Journal, No. 74 (July 2015), pp. 1-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2533063

Kevin J. O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Yanhua Deng

Department of Sociology, Nanjing Universtiy ( email )

No. 163, Xianlin Avenue, Qixia
Nanjing, Jiangsu 210023
China

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