The idea that ‘the countryside’ is a multifaceted concept subject to a range of discursive ‘constructions’ has been well established in Western contexts, with their long history of urbanization, for a number of years (cf. Murdoch et al. 2003). In contexts such as China, where mass urbanization is a more recent phenomenon, there has been little if any discussion of these issues. The massive scale of recent Chinese urbanization and the implications of that urbanization for the countryside around cities means that it is vitally important that we develop an understanding of how concepts such as (sub)urbanization and the relationship between the urban and the rural are playing out in the Chinese context.