There is no better place to explore the relationship of industry enclaves to urban life than China, where traditional danweis (work units) have coexisted with new foreign direct investment enclaves. Here we draw on original interviews with workers at Wuhan Iron and Steel Company (WISCO) and Foxconn in the city of Wuhan to examine industry enclaves old and new in terms of their spatial arrangement, work, institutions, and social life and identity. The article is one of the first to integrate urban and economic geographical perspectives on the subject of enclaves. It provides evidence of similarities and contrasts in the spatial arrangement of work, institutions, life and identity centred on industry enclaves old and new. These contrasts reflect wider relations between the state and the market and between social subject and commodified labour in China. In conclusion, we identify several research directions concerning the scale, diversity and reach of urban enclavism in China and beyond.