In this paper, we document the process of displacement of over 11,000 villagers who were removed from their homes and relocated in modern apartment blocks in order to make way for the construction of a new business district for Shanghai at Hongqiao in the west of the city. We conceptualise this process in terms of a regime of displacement, seeing it as part of a much larger move undertaken by the Chinese party-state to create a fully urbanised society to serve a modernised economy. In this process villagers lose their source of livelihood while the state gains the land from which it is then able to extract maximum profit before handing it over to the business sector (both state-owned and private).
Our research involved interviews with officials and villagers and an extensive questionnaire survey of those who were displaced. We asked villagers about their lives and livelihoods before relocation, about compensation and the process of relocation and about their quality of life and means of making a living after their relocation. In terms of the relocation process our findings underline the multiple injustices that stem from the unequal relationship between the state and the villagers. Previous to their relocation, villagers had made a living through farming and renting out accommodation to migrants. Even though, the authorities had given many relocatees multiple apartments, we found that the former villagers felt high degrees of uncertainty around their ability to make a living. The overwhelming feeling was that while the physical environment had improved they had lost their economic security. The state was thus able successfully to pursue its overall aims of boosting the regional economy of the west of Shanghai and urbanising the population.