|Abstract as per original application
My overarching research question is how the state and law interact with homeowners' self-governance effort in China's urban residential neighborhoods. Neighborhood governance in urban China has come to a new age featuring a fundamental governance crisis. Compared to what urban neighborhoods were twenty years ago when most private housing projects were newly constructed, they are facing more urgent governance problems arising from both building aging and deterioration and inadequate institutional infrastructure. The last three years have witnessed both national and local legal and policy initiatives to address such an urban governance crisis.
The proposed research project coins the term "authoritarian commons" to capture the dynamic interactions between the authoritarian state and homeowners’ effort to create liberal commons in their neighborhoods. Condominium ownership is the only legal form of urban housing ownership in China’s Property Law and the new Civil Code. Common property rights shared by all homeowners include not only the right to manage common space but also the right to form an autonomous institution, i.e., a homeowners' association ("HoA"), to govern their own neighborhoods. Yet, such urban commons grow in an authoritarian state whose tradition is to exercise monopolistic control by relying on either local government agencies or real estate management companies to manage neighborhoods.
The implementation of homeowner self-governance depends largely on each municipality. According to the data verified in a pilot project, 94% of the condominium neighborhoods in Shanghai have set up homeowners’ associations, compared with 41% in Shenzhen and 12% in Beijing. Different municipal governments adopt different approaches to deal with homeowner self-governance due to their varying capacity to govern, the risk to social stability and local economic conditions. Based on these three variables, I will investigate the law and practice of HoAs in six Chinese cities, including the three megacities above.
I will conduct the first-ever study digging into the two-decade development of homeowners’ associations in urban China to examine the interplay between the authoritarian state and communities. This research project will be a natural extension of my previous well-noted study on Chinese small/informal property that elucidates the co-evolution of law and social norms. Drawing on mixed methods including a comprehensive examination of national and local legislative and judicial data, ethnographic fieldwork and questionnaire surveys, this project endeavors to further my co-evolution theory by examining the interactions between state and communities in China's ongoing urban governance crisis.