Building City Walls: Reordering the Population through Beijing’s Upside-Down Villages

Jane Hayward*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


China’s development strategies have long been premised on an institutionalized urban-rural divide, on the basis of which the population is governed. This urban-rural divide is being reconfigured as China’s relationship to the global economy transforms. As China’s leaders seek to upgrade the economy from one focused on export production to one based on urban middle-class consumers, China’s population is being reorganized. China’s largest cities are pivotal to this strategy. Branded “world cities,” as they further integrate into the global economy, they are becoming exclusive zones, their populations carefully managed and selected. In Beijing, urban villages are key sites for enacting such strategies. Under a controversial program known as “sealed management,” inhabitants are subjected to various forms of surveillance and monitoring. This constitutes a dual strategy both to control local villager populations during land expropriations and to “upgrade” the migrant labor force in keeping with the government’s global city plans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1049
Number of pages31
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Beijing
  • global cities
  • rural migrants
  • sealed management
  • urban villages


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