Governing Women's Capabilities in China's Urban Expansion
By the middle of the twenty-first century, China's urban population is likely to have grown by about 500 million, to more than 1.1 billion people. This article applies Amartya Sen's concept of capabilities to explore how the government of urban expansion is affecting the generation of rural women whose villages currently are being enclosed by cities and towns. Drawing on interviews, press reports and government and Women's Federation documents from Zhejiang province, it illustrates how local governments' economic growth strategies hinge, in part, on reconstructing gendered relations in the spatial organization, civic management, production and social reproduction in new metropolitan sites. The article concludes, first, that unless China's leaders commit to involving rural women's representatives in urban planning and management, enforcing women's rights to property and enabling women to decide whether and when to work and retire, the capabilities of this generation of rural women will expand little; and, second, that Sen's concept overlooks organizational and material conditions that are necessary for women to enhance their capabilities.