Challenging, But Not Trouble-Making: Cultural Elites in China's Urban Heritage Preservation

Journal of Contemporary China 25:98 (2016): 292-306. DOI:10.1080/10670564.2015.1075720

31 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018

See all articles by Yuan Yao

Yuan Yao

Nanjing University

Rongbin Han

University of Georgia


Urban heritage preservation is gaining momentum in China as massive urban renovation has put many historical sites under threat. A group of renowned scholars, experts and artists have played an important role in leading and coordinating the movement. How do these cultural elites promote urban heritage preservation? How do they mediate state–society interactions and navigate the authoritarian regime to achieve their goals? This article explores how cultural elites take advantage of their intermediary position between officialdom and citizenry by not only mobilizing urban residents and the media to counter-balance the state, but also balancing different levels and sectors of the party-state against each other. Such a ‘double balance’ approach maximizes their influence within both the state and society, pushing forward the otherwise non-prioritized goal of heritage preservation.

Keywords: heritage preservation, China, authoritarian regime, contention, elite

Suggested Citation

Yao, Yuan and Han, Rongbin, Challenging, But Not Trouble-Making: Cultural Elites in China's Urban Heritage Preservation. Journal of Contemporary China 25:98 (2016): 292-306. DOI:10.1080/10670564.2015.1075720, Available at SSRN:

Yuan Yao

Nanjing University ( email )

Nanjing, Jiangsu 210093

Rongbin Han (Contact Author)

University of Georgia ( email )

322 Candler Hall
Athens, GA Georgia 30602-6254
United States

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