Enticing the Global Gaze, The Contention for Urban Spatial Rights in China
Taking the new urban poor as a focus, it is clear that the issue of “the right to the city” in China is bound up with the problem that the streets have become unfriendly to those doing informal work. This situation is the product of several changes in recent decades: principally, as the leadership became concerned with making the country fit into the global market, it engineered a program of mass layoffs in the late 1990s, disposing of workers who were less skilled and older than 35. At the same time, in an effort to bring in foreign capital, cities have become the captives of local governmental-business coalitions that emphasize orderly, modernized urban streetscapes. These developments have meant that even as the less qualified have been dismissed from positions of lifetime employment, they have also effectively been discouraged from earning an income through casual labor on the sidewalks. The upshot is that the poor have no real “right to the city” even when they desperately need one to survive.