Zhuhai, Chine, 25/07/2017
© Cinzia Losavio / Géographie-cités

Stratifying Chinese internal migrants to serve urban and economic growth: the differentiated processes of residential anchoring in Zhuhai through the prism of informality.

Cinzia LOSAVIO, Ph. D. Student at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, member of the Géographie-cités laboratory, will publicly defend her thesis in geography and urban planning
on November 9, 2022
at 10 am
Auditorium of the Grand Equipement Documentaire (GED)
Condorcet Campus
10 Cours des Humanités 93322 Aubervilliers cedex

Composition of the jury

Natacha Aveline-Dubach, CNRS Research Director in Urban Geography UMR Géographie-cités: Director
Jean-Claude Driant, Professor in Geography of Planning, Paris School of Urbanism, University of Paris Est Créteil: examiner
Gilles Guiheux, Professor of Socio-economics of China and Taiwan, Université Paris Cité: rapporteur
Sébastien Jacquot, Associate professor in Human and Economic Geography, University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne: examiner
Laurence Roulleau-Berger, CNRS Research Director in Sociology, ENS Lyon: rapporteur
Simeng Wang, CNRS Research Fellow in Sociology, UMR CERMES3: examiner
migrants china real estate


This research investigates the residential anchoring of the Chinese internal migrants as part of their urban integration process. The prism of residential anchoring is a crucial entry point for exploring the way in which internal migrants participate in the socio-spatial reconfiguration of urban space. That is especially due to the central role the residential real estate market has been playing in the growth strategies of the Chinese “Developmental State” as well as to the economic and symbolic functions that housing covers for urban societies.

Standing at the crossroads of human geography, urban geography and political sociology, this thesis takes as a case study the city of Zhuhai (Guangdong), where I carried out a two-year fieldwork investigation. The methodology relies on participant observation, ethnographic fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, and public policy analysis. I conducted interviews with more than 140 people, including 128 migrants, a dozen local officials, parastatal organizations, public developers, and local landlords. The analysis focuses on both formal and informal modalities of urban integration processes through a conceptual framework based on an “integrated definition of informality”.

The research findings shed light on a selective and highly competitive model of integration. This model, which reinforces the socio-spatial differentiation of urban space, produces interstices of informality. Within these “gray spaces” low-skilled migrants develop their own residential and urban integration strategies, gaining sometimes access, albeit informally, to home ownership.