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Professor Carolyn Cartier


Carolyn Cartier, a professor of human geography and China studies, specializes in urban and regional transformation in China and comparative urban and spatial theory. She studied in the Department of  Geography at the University of California, Berkeley (AB, MA, PhD), and was a tenured member of the faculty at the University of Southern California before joining UTS China Research Centre in 2009. In 2005-06 she was a Fulbright Fellow in Hong Kong. Current publications focus on administrative divisions and territorial urbanization in China; urban and regional governmentality; urban restructuring and consumer society; and the politics of aesthetics in contested urban culture. Her current book projects are 'The Geographical Mandate: From Macroregions to Territorial Economies', a monograph, and an edited collection, 'Vast Land of Borders: State, Empire and Territory in China'.

Key publications

2016 'A Political Economy of Rank: The Territorial Administrative Hierarchy and Leadership Mobility in Urban China', Jounral of Contemporary China 25, no. 100: 529–546.

2015 ‘Territorial Urbanization and the Party-state in China’, Territory, Politics, Governance, 3 (3): 294–320.

2012 The China Story Yearbook 2012: Red Rising, Red Eclipse, edited by G. R. Barmé and J. Goldkorn with C. Cartier and G. Davies, Canberra: Australian Centre on China in the World, The Australian National University

2005 Seductions of Place: Geographical Perspectives on Globalization and Touristed Landscapes, London and New York: Routledge, edited with Alan A. Lew

2003 The Chinese Diaspora: Space, Place, Mobility, and Identity, Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, edited with Laurence J.C. Ma

2001 Globalizing South China, Oxford: Blackwell

Articles and Chapters

2016 ‘Governmentality and the Urban Economy: Consumption, Excess and the “Civilized City” in China’ in E. Jeffreys and D. Bray, eds., New Mentalities of Governance in China, London: Routledge

2013 ‘Building Civilised Cities’ in G. R. Barmé and J. Goldkorn, eds., China Story Yearbook 2013: Civilising China, Canberra: The Australian National University, pp. 256-285

2012 ‘Image, Precariousness and the Logic of Cultural Production in Hong Kong', PORTAL: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 9(3): 1-19

2010 'Power Plays: Performance Art, Political Life and Social Documentation', in Kam Louie, ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press, pp. 25-40

2009 'Production/Consumption and the Chinese City/Region: Cultural Political Economy and the Feminist Diamond Ring', Urban Geography, 30(4): 368-390

2008 'Hong Kong and the Production of Art in the Post/colonial City,' China Information, 22(2): 195-225

2008 'Culture and the City: Hong Kong, 1997-2007', The China Review, 8(1): 59-83

2005 Carolyn Cartier, Manuel Castells, and Jack Linchuan Qiu 'The Information Have-Less: Inequality, Mobility, and Translocal Networks in Chinese Cities', Studies in Comparative International Development, 40(2): 9-34

2005 'City-Space: Scale Relations and China’s Spatial Administrative Hierarchy', in Laurence J.C. Ma and Fulong Wu, eds., Restructuring the Chinese City: Changing Society, Economy and Space, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 21-38

2002 'Transnational Urbanism in the Reform Era Chinese City: Landscapes from Shenzhen,” Urban Studies, 39(9): 1513-1532

2002 “Origins and Evolution of a Geographical Idea: The ‘Macroregion’ in China', Modern China, 28(1): 79-143

2001 '"Zone Fever", the Arable Land Debate, and Real Estate Speculation: China’s Evolving Land Use Regime and its Geographical Contradictions', Journal of Contemporary China, 10(28): 445-69



Professor, International Studies Program
B.A, M.A, PhD
Member, Chinese Studies Association of Australia
Member, Association of American Geographers
Member, American Association for Asian Studies
+61 2 9514 2977

Research Interests

  • Urban administrative divisions in contemporary China
  • Urban restructuring and globalization of consumer society
  • Cityscapes, alternative art and the politics of aesthetics
  • The role of the state in China's urban and regional development
  • Territory, political economy and comparative urban theory
  • Hong Kong - PRC relations
  • China in the World
  • Human geography
  • Social theory
  • Urban China


Cartier, C. 2001, Globalizing South China, 1, Blackwell, Oxford, UK.


Cartier, C. 2016, 'Governmentality and the urban economy: Consumption, excess, and the 'civilized city' in China' in New Mentalities of Government in China, Taylor and Francis, USA, pp. 56-73.
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Cartier, C. 2015, 'Urban, Mobile and Global' in Barmé, G.R., Jaivin, L. & Goldkorn, J. (eds), China Story Yearbook 2014: Shared Destiny, pp. 204-224.
Cartier, C. & Hu, D. 2015, 'Administrative Territory' in Goodman, D. (ed), Handbook of the Politics of China, Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 147-164.
The Handbook of the Politics of China is a comprehensive resource introducing readers to the very latest in research on Chinese politics.
Cartier, C. 2013, 'Uneven development and the time/space economy' in Sun, W. & Guo, Y. (eds), Unequal China: Political Economy and the Cultural Politics of Inequality, Routledge, UK, pp. 77-90.
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After three decades of rapid industrialization, the problems of inequality in the PRC reflect the geographical trajectory of the planned reform economy. From south to north and coast to interior, the uneven geography of reform has contributed to generating uneven development between regions and inequality between urban and rural areas (cf. Fan 1995; Findlay et al. 1995; Wang and Hu 1999; Goodman 2008b; Frazier 2010). While the major gaps are between the coast and interior and cities and the countryside, profound disparities also exist between registered urban residents and internal migrants, and between women and men (United Nations Development Program 2008). Economic inequality in China has challenged the social legitimacy of the I'RC's platform of rapid economic growth as the basis of societal development.
Cartier, C. 2013, 'Class, consumption and the economic restructuring of consumer space' in Chen, M. & Goodman, D.S.G. (eds), Middle Class China: Identity and Behaviour, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 34-53.
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Cartier, C. 2013, 'With other worlds - Jaffa Lam and the artist's residency' in Yeung Yang (ed), Away from the Crowd - The Art of Jaffa Lam, YEUNG Yang, Hong Kong, pp. 128-139.
Cartier, C. 2013, 'Building civilised cities' in Barmé, G. & Goldkorn, J. (eds), China Story Yearbook 2013 Civilising China, Australian Centre on China in the World, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, pp. 256-285.
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Cartier, C. & Tomba, L. 2012, 'Symbolic Cities and the 'Cake Debate'' in Barme, G., Goldkorn, J., Cartier, C. & Davies, G. (eds), Red Rising Red Eclipse: China Story Yearbook 2012, Australian Centre on China in the World; The Australian National University, Australia, pp. 25-52.
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Cities provide the most spectacular evidence of China's transformation. New urban landscapes punctuated by landmark skyscrapers proclaim the country's rapid development and modernisation. Since 1978, over 500 new cities have been built and constructing them has been a major social and political achievement as well as a major driver of economic growth. The process has also dispossessed millions of rural landholders without due or sufficient compensation, resulting in tens of thousands of protests in recent years. In historic cities, displacement of long-established residents and the replacement of socialist-era housing and factories by sleek office buildings and shopping malls also demonstrate the changing economic functions of the city and throw up new social and economic issues.
Cartier, C. 2012, 'Neoliberalization at a Crossroads? Transcolonial Hong Kong' in Kenkel, J. & Mayer, M. (eds), Neoliberal Urbanism and Its Contestations: Crossing Theoretical Boundaries, Palgrave Macmillan, United Kingdom, pp. 137-154.
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Cartier, C. 2012, 'Contemporary art and mediatization in Brand PRD' in Sun, W. & Chio, J. (eds), Mapping Media In China: Region, Province, Locality, Routledge, UK, pp. 126-142.
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The transformati on of cultural production and con sumption in th e era of the information economy has also radically transfo rmed the world of contemporary art. The information techn ologies of globalization have effec ti vely opened up the borders of trad itional art studies' national boundari es. The new mobility of ar1 needs places to go and contemporary art biennales/biennials. have proli fe rated, especially in Asia (Clark 2007). In the context of the neoliberal world economy - the marketization of everyth ing - the new 'world art system' of mutually in fl uential art schools, galleries, aI1 fairs, art magazines, biennalesl biennials, museums and auction houses has led to rapid commodification of contemporary art (Holmes 2004).
Cartier, C. 2011, 'World Cities - Part I' in Agnew, J. & Duncan, J.S. (eds), Human Geography, Wiley-Blackwell, UK, pp. 313-324.
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Since its popularisation in the 1980's, the idea of the world city has travelled widely through the literatures of urban geography, international planning and interdisciplinary urban studies into diverse public spheres, including urban governance and applied urban and regional planning.
Cartier, C. 2010, 'Power Plays: Alternative Performance Art and Urban Space in the Political Life of the City' in Kam Louie (ed), Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, pp. 25-40.
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Cartier, C. 2009, 'Cultural Spaces/ Hong Kong: Relational Urban Studies and the Epochal State' in Wong Siu-lun (ed), Rethinking Hong Kong: New Paradigms, New Perspectives, Centre of Asian Studies, Hong Kong, pp. 225-243.
Cartier, C. 2006, 'Symbolic City/Regions and Gendered Identity Formation in South China' in Oakes, T. & Schein, L. (eds), Translocal China: Linkages, Identities and the Re-imagining of Space, Routledge, London and New York, pp. 138-154.
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In China under reform, mobility has become a leitmotif of social and economic change. Rural migrants have surged into cities, hukou-for-investment policies have fueled sales of upscaleprivate housing, tourism has become a major leisure time activity, and seeking a passport is becoming an urban trend. Geographical mobility, social mobility, travel, and imaginaries about these possibilities-all in relation to the pace of industrialization, at least for some of China's cities and regions, the fastest in world history-have made movement a central processural theme of transformation and identification in contemporary China. These new mobilities reflect dynamic economic transformations under reform, and, most basically, renewed opportunity to travel and relocate. Socio-economic mobility wrought by reform is symbolized by millions of rural migrants, and the new ties formed by migrants between small towns and large cities. Moving up this urban hierarchy and the economic ladder are widely held goals if not imaginations, as representations of the new rich-typically residing in China's major citiescirculate in media and society. International linkages are also increasingly evolving between regions and cities of rapid growth in coastal provinces and major source countries of foreign direct investment in China. As Wanning Sun (2002) has discussed, China's new media technologies, especially television, have brought images of not only Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to the village, but also those of New York, London and Tokyo.
Cartier, C. 2005, 'City-space: scale relations and China's spatial administrative hierarchy' in Ma, L. & Wu, F. (eds), Restructuring the Chinese City: Changing society, economy and space, Routledge, New York, USA, pp. 21-38.
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Cartier, C. 2005, 'San Francisco and the left coast' in Cartier, C. & Lew, A.A. (eds), Seductions of Place, Routledge, Oxon, UK, pp. 148-169.
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In a review of television specials set in San Francisco, cultural critic and college professor Stephen McCauley (1998) writes about the city as a place of myth and legend. His students claim having spent past lives there, a mode of orientation he finds otherwise reserved for places like "ancient Egypt, Machu Picchu, Petra; rose-red city half as old as time." He observes, "San Francisco has achieved mythic status among the disillusioned and disenfranchised from all over. Surrounded by water and frequently shrouded in fog, it has become, in our collective imaginations, a kind of real-world Oz"-a fantastical place where people actually live. Continuing the metaphors, he evaluates the public television documentary "The Castro" as a neighborhood history of a marginalized group whose community has become so successful that many of its businesses cater to tourists; the whole neighborhood "has taken on something like a theme-park atmosphere: Gayworld." Perhaps what disorients McCauley is the sight of people at leisure on these streets-just as likely they're not tourists.


Cartier, C. 2011, 'Developmental Logistics and (Leninist) Governmentality in China', Development, Logistics, and Governance, Fourth Critical Studies Conference, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, Calcutta, pp. 1-24.
research paper
Cartier, C. 2010, 'Regional Governmentalities or Territorializaton with/out Boundaries', How Asia Became Territorial, Conference on Inter-Asian Connections II - Workshop: How Asia Became Territorial, Social Sciences Research Council, Singapore, pp. 1-13.

Journal articles

Cartier, C. 2016, 'A Political Economy of Rank: the territorial administrative hierarchy and leadership mobility in urban China', Journal of Contemporary China, vol. 25, no. 100, pp. 529-546.
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© 2016 Taylor & Francis The level or rank of an administrative division ( or ) in China—a structural condition of the sub-national territorial administrative system—is a correlate of administrative rank (). State reterritorialization of the administrative divisions (), through establishment and expansion of hundreds of cities, introduces a political economy of differentiation and change by which city governments take the measure of their administrative reach and economic capacity. How do changes to the administrative divisions involve administrative rank, economic status and territorial governing power? In Suzhou, a prefecture-level city, incommensurability between the economic status of the city and its administrative rank reveals how 'unfair' rank in the administrative hierarchy becomes implicated in negotiations over territorial adjustments and cadre appointments, leading to creative forms of rank adjustment. Dynamics of the administrative divisions reflect rank consciousness, influence official positions and structure urban transformation in contemporary China.
Cartier, C. 2015, 'Territorial Urbanization and the Party-State in China', Territory, Policy, Governance, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 294-320.
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This article develops the concept of territorial urbanization in China through the historical conditions and research design problems of the Chinese administrative divisions in relation to comparative territorial thought. Subnational territories are not constitutionally guaranteed in China and the state maintains powers to establish new cities and enlarge and merge existing ones, and even eliminate others, with significant implications for geographically targeted economic development and governing powers. These territorial strategies, which administer urban expansion, rationalize government administration, and organize capital investment through continuing economic growth, are negotiated within the political system of the Chinese party-state and decided through non-transparent processes by the Chinese central government. Yet literature on urbanization in China often subsumes party-state territorialization practices under internationally recognizable epistemologies such as urban and regional planning and simplifies and contains their urban-economic transformations to fixed spaces in zone development. This analysis examines cities within the system of administrative divisions and pursues the question of the reproduction of state power through territorial urbanization in the Shanghai Pudong New Area, where a territorial merger doubled its size and central government policy imagines the future of China's international financial centre.
Cartier, C. 2013, 'What's territorial about China?--from geopolitical narratives to the 'administrative economy'', Eurasian Geography and Economics, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 57-77.
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A human geographer and China specialist introduces perspectives on territory in China from the vantage of guowai (outside the country) and guonei (inside the country). This relational comparison extends analysis of Chinese geopolitical narratives to current questions about state power in China, and opens up the geopolitical perspective to recalibrate analysis of territory and territorial boundary formation inside the nation-state. Territorial change is particularly significant in China because subnational territories are not constitutionally guaranteed and state development strategies regularly depend on strategic boundary changes to form new governing spaces. The article introduces the concept of the administrative area economy from the Chinese literature to explain how the Chinese political economy crucially depends on reterritorialization to establish and promote contemporary urbanization and achieve political and economic goals. This analytical approach, based on the international scholarship and the Chinese-language literature, also reflects Agnews incorporation of methodological advances from new area studies in political geographical analysis.
Cartier, C. 2013, 'Beijing Record: A Physical and Political History of Planning Modern Beijing, by Wang Jun', The China Journal, vol. 1998, no. 69, pp. 216-217.
Cartier, C. 2011, 'State Formation and Comparative Area Studies :Between Globalization and Territorialization', Journal Of Asian Studies, vol. 70, no. 4, pp. 965-970.
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In his review of Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1860: Expansion and Crisis, Victor Lieberman plied the margins of Anthony Reid's (1995) portrayal of early modern Southeast Asia and objected with purpose: 'critical cultural and political transformations on the mainland without close archipelagic analogy receive little or no attention' (Lieberman 1995, 799). Where connections and crossings characterize historic social formation in insular Southeast Asia, Lieberman focused on a different shore - territorial consolidation of kingdoms in mainland Southeast Asia, from over 20 in the pre-modern era to only three major empires, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, by the end of the seventeenth century. Yet Reid's two-volume work was exquisitely timed with the theoretical pulses of globalization and their keywords of crossings diasporas, flows, linkages, mobilities, networks, routes and travels. Closely related to the poststructural theoretical shift, these themes have guided new area studies and are likely to prevail in international scholarship for some time to come.
Shih, M. & Cartier, C. 2011, 'Particularities and Complexities: Unpacking State Policy in Local China', Provincial China, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-8.
In this issue, Provincial China features work by UTS China Research Centre scholars and associates. The four articles together problematize another assumption about political economy in China the idea that state policy is top-down, unidirectional, and omnipresent. Working on different topics and from different disciplinary perspectives, each author analyzes a specific state policy to reveal how, rather than supporting a monolithic state structure, policy dynamics demonstrate regional particularity, temporal variability, and institutional complexity. The spatial conditions of policy dynamics vary regionally as well as in relations of scale, i.e., between national interests and their relations with provincial, urban, and local governments. Since Chinas developmental model had depended on a strong state, how should we understand conditions of particularity and complexity in state policy? How should we potentially reconsider understanding the state in light of policy variation? These articles generate insightful outcomes.
Cartier, C. 2011, 'Urban Growth, Rescaling and the Spatial Administrative Hierarchy', Provincial China, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-25.
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After thirty years of scholarship on transformations in China under reform, accumulated research capacity demonstrates potential for increased interdisciplinary research and research questions at the interstices of fields. This paper examines one such possibility by assessing urbanization in relation to the dynamics of financial policy and rescaling through the spatial administrative hierarchy. From the perspective of the administrative hierarchy, the discussion observes the conjunctures of de/recentralization in the economy with urbanization through the establishment of new cities. Based on the work of Victor Shih on inflationary cycles, the paper demonstrates coordination of monetary policy with designation of new cities, and ultimately argues that the central government has orchestrated decentralization of economic power in association with planned urbanization as a basis of domestic growth.
Cartier, C. 2011, 'Neoliberalism And The Neoauthoritarian City In China-contexts And Research Directions: Commentary In Conversation With Jennifer Robinson's Urban Geography Plenary Lecture', Urban Geography, vol. 32, no. 8, pp. 1110-1121.
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Emerging research on comparative neoliberalism at the urban scale seeks to trace its diffusions and document its contours and trajectories in regions beyond the trans-Atlantic corridor. Discovering geographical variation in neoliberal policy should produ
Cartier, C. 2009, 'Production/Consumption And The Chinese City/Region: Cultural Political Economy And The Feminist Diamond Ring', Urban Geography, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 368-390.
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The "consumer revolution" in the People's Republic of China emerged after 1992 when the state deepened growth-oriented reform and justified individual consumption as a pillar of economic development. This examination of cultural-economic practices in urban China makes an argument for conceptualizing consumption in relation to production through a modified cultural political economy. It identifies a regional regime in the zone between Shanghai and Hong Kong, with the latter as China's main center of trade in precious metals and gemstones, and citizen-consumer subject formation with "Chinese characteristics." The argument builds on Chinese feminist theory to explain contrasts between PRC state ideology on women's roles in the household and contemporary alternatives in the marketplace. Empirical analysis focuses on the large market for fine jewelry, its disassociation from heteronormative gifting, and its connection with leisure/tourism sites. Conclusions affirm the importance of a cultural political economy for theorizing production/consumption relations in the city, and query evolving consumerism in the PRC.
Cartier, C. 2008, 'Hong Kong and the Production of Art in the Post/colonial City', China Information, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 245-275.
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Contemporary and alternative art in Hong Kong has strong local roots and translocal connections, and while it reflects cultural politics in the city it lacks substantial international recognition. This interdisciplinary analysis focuses on the contexts of production of contemporary art by women in Hong Kong and their centrality in the city's arts community. The narrative contrasts the presence of contemporary and alternative arts and its absence from art criticism discourses through the disjuncture between the geopolitics of contemporary Asian art and the making of Hong Kong into an unprecedented territorial formation. Reading local art through alternative spacetime concepts and intersubjective arts practice is proposed through the exhibit-event, "If Hong Kong, A Woman/Traveller."
Cartier, C. 2008, 'Culture and the City: Hong Kong 1997-2007', The China Review, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 59-83.
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After 1997, sustained public debate emerged in Hong Kong over a suite of cultural issues, yet international analyses of the handover predictably continue to emphasize economic forecasts as if disconnected from cultural politics. This examination problematizes what is culture in Hong Kong, beginning with the idea of the trope of the cultural desert as a placism, to train analysis on cultural processes in political economic and local contexts. The place-based treatment takes a postcolonial perspective on contemporary cultural political economy through the West Kowloon Cultural District, the role of the municipal state in cultural policy, the rise of studio and contemporary arts in the city, and the heritage conservation movement, to demonstrate how Hong Kongs cultural turn reflects the tensions of the postcolonial era in the unprecedented time-space of the Hong Kong Special administrative Region.
Cartier, C. 2007, 'Making Space For Art: the culture debate and the studio arts movement in Hong Kong', Universite de Reims. Institut de Geographie. Travaux, vol. 129, no. 130, pp. 101-120.
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In Hong Kong, the recent emergence of studio arts districts is taking place in the context of public debate over state visions of cultural facilities and creative industries. While government invests in a planned culture district, artists struggle for working space in an environment of volatile rents. To contribute to a critical geography of art, this discussion ,engages the struggle to produce contemporary and alternative art in Hong Kong after 1997 at the theoretical intersection of the production of space, cultural political economy and the Deleuzian idea of art as sensation.
Cartier, C., Castells, M. & Qiu, J.L. 2005, 'The Information Have-Less: Inequality, Mobility, and Translocal Networks in Chinese Cities', Studies in Comparative International Development, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 9-34.
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The 'information have-less' is a social, economic, and political category for millions of rural-to-urban migrants and laid-off workers, who populate the vast gray zone of China's digital divide. Disengaged from institutions of agricultural and industrial production, the information have-less make use of such inexpensive ICT services as Internet cafés, prepaid phone cards, and Little Smart mobile phones. These low-end digital technologies are critical to enhancing labor mobility (both physical and social) and to the formation of translocal networks. In this paper, we conduct a preliminary assessment of ICT usage in, key city-regions in China and consider the consequences of translocal network formations for evolving information inequality in China. These networks raise key theoretical issues related to regionalism, mobility, and state-firm relationships that impinge on low-end service provision, and stratified patterns of information access and utilization within the have-less populations. We view translocal networks an important socio-economic asset of the information have-less and an arena for the articulation of labor mobility in Chinas industrialization process and latest wave of urbanization.