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Playing the edge ball

The politics of transgression in land development in southern China

Lan Wei and Minh T.N. Nguyen

This article analyzes a particular form of everyday politics through the case of land development in a Chinese village. Commonly referred to as edge ball politics (cabianqiu), it implies the act of transgressing certain rules or laws and testing the limits of what is socially and legally possible. We found that the state, the village leadership, private developers, and villagers all vie to influence the outcomes of land development in the village by engaging in this practice. We suggest that edge ball politics plays into the Chinese state’s governing strategies, which allow for a manageable space of negotiation to ward off a collective sense of injustice in the face of rampant dispossession of the weak and accumulation by the powerful.