chapter  1
16 Pages

‘Battles over green space’

Land disputes, rights activism, and emerging publics in urban China 1
WithLi Zhang

This chapter focuses on the widespread urban land disputes between developers and urban residents by examining what has been known as 'battles over green space'. It discusses the importance of attending to cultural and historical specificities of 'publics' and rights discourses in and beyond China. The chapter presents a detailed account of the two cases to illustrate how Chinese urban residents utilize different subject positions and legal/political means to challenge powerful real estate developers and engage different sections of the state. It concludes by reflecting upon the distinct characters of new weiquan publics and their ambivalent relationships with the developers and the reform state. The chapter also considers how incessant land disputes and grassroots activism might disrupt and articulates with the political regime's call to strive for a harmonious society. Disputes and conflicts over the use of communal space for new construction are widespread across Chinese cities today.