The Chinese hukou system has been a hot topic in China study for decades. It not only restricts access to state-sponsored benefits (such as food and housing provision) in pre-reform China, but continues to influence the local-led urbanization in post-reform era. However, few studies have explained why this highly exploitative system persists in China. This paper tries to contribute some insights to interpretation of this issue based on Foucault’s concept of governmentality. It is argued that Chinese hukou system is actually a power relation consisting of a series of governmental technologies based on differentiation, surveillance and calculation in pursuit of economic growth and political stability. The governmental techniques and rationality within the Chinese institutional system make the hukou system persist in modern China.
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