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Migrant workers' citizenship positionality in contemporary China

Jakimów, Małgorzata

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Zhonghua Guo


This chapter discusses the interconnected nature of the institutional, discursive and spatial characteristics of migrant workers’ citizenship positioning in relation to the rural–urban divide. Institutionally, the rural–urban divide has been entrenched through the hukou system, which limits access to rights of citizenship of rural migrants in urban China. Discursively, rural migrants have been portrayed to be in need of transformation into desired kind of citizens, that is educated, modern and urban individuals, a narrative stemming from both the indigenous suzhi renkou discourse as well as modern understanding of citizenship adopted from the West. Spatially, migrant workers have been excluded from the city through urban redevelopment projects, which delegate them to the city fringes by keeping property prices prohibitively high or unavailable for purchase to non-local hukou holders, as well as direct evictions of rural-hukou-holders from urban spaces. By highlighting the historical developments and modern adjustments and changes within citizenship institutions, discourse and the spatial position of migrants in urban China, the chapter highlights the internal contradictions in state policies of urbanisation and the entrenchment of rural–urban divide in contemporary formulation of citizenship.


Jakimów, M. (2021). Migrant workers' citizenship positionality in contemporary China. In Z. Guo (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Citizenship. Routledge.

Online Publication Date Nov 30, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Jan 14, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023
Publisher Routledge
Edition 1st ed.
Book Title The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Citizenship
Chapter Number 11
Publisher URLłgorzata-jakimów


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