Dance with Glauthoritarian Urbanization: An Entrepreneurial Megacity in the Making through the Lenses of Civic Organizations

How do formal civic organizations shape—and how are they shaped by—the making and transformation of urban space? Place-oriented civil society research emphasizes the central role of civic organizations in producing and changing unequal political and economic orders of cities but largely ignores the intercity connections and competitions that contribute to these local civic dynamics in a global capitalist system. Critical urban studies, in contrast, recognizes the influences of global capitalism and local city boosterism on city development but overlooks the paradoxical roles of formal civic organizations. Bringing the two scholarly camps in dialogue, this article explores how formal civic organizations are situated in entrepreneurial city-making in the Global South, when city governments promote their competitive advantage by boosting “social innovation” through nonprofits. Drawing on survey, interview, and social media data from a random sample of nonprofits in Shenzhen, China, our preliminary results highlight that the Shenzhen municipal government’s agenda to promote both global capitalism and authoritarian rules have shaped the urban spaces where nonprofits form and operate. In turn, nonprofits mediate the negotiations between the local state, market, and urban residents to create, transform, and reinvent unequal physical, social, and digital urban space in this Silicon Valley of China.