Researchers

Michelle Huang Tsung-yi

City Research Team Members


Tianshan

(Re)visiting Socialist Workers’ New Village:

Working Women, Poverty, and Urbanization in Tianshan Road Community, Shanghai

Drawing on the Soviet communal housing for workers, a great number of workers’ neighborhoods were built from 1949 to 1978 to serve for the working class in China. These neighborhoods are commonly known as Gongren Xincun (工人新村 – literally, “workers’ new village”). In Tianshan Road Community in Changning District, a district located in the west side of Shanghai, Gongren Xincun was built and had become the communal housing for the workers working in the nearby factories. Under the influence of socialism, apartments were assigned to the workers by their danwei (单位 – literally, “work unit”) in Socialist China, according to their family size and their hierarchy in the workplace. These new villages are one of the most vibrant socialist legacies of urban constructions in Shanghai. During the socialist era, Gongren Xincun was the principal part of urban renewal and was meant for the implementation of socialist political aspirations, social ideals, and economic policies of state-planned economy. However, the Open Door Policy and Economic Reform in 1978 have started to change the social fabric of China, including these workers’ neighborhood. For the sake of the promotion of Expo 2010 Shanghai China, the Tianshan Road Community ushered into rapid urban development. Commercial areas are developed next to the Tianshan workers’ neighborhoods, with hundreds of luxury plazas, hotels, business office buildings, as well as embassies and consulates. Former socialist women workers and other local residents in Tianshan have to face drastic changes and challenges because of the rapid urbanization.