Who says the Chinese danwei is dead? Eggs and toilet paper (FREE!!) beside my desk today!
Posted in Chinese Culture, Photo Essays | Tagged China, danwei | 5 Comments »
The affective core of Chinese life is the family home, an understanding of which helps to explain1 the central role of residential construction in Shijiazhuang’s urban renovation. The desire to improve the domestic living conditions of one’s family and to provide a better future to subsequent generations drives family members to seek a hao yi xie de shenghuo (好一些的生活 — literally, a slightly better life).China’s policy makers are highly sensitive to the economic potential of this desire to improve living conditions. At times they work to incite and exploit the desire for familial improvement as an engine of economic growth, at others to restrain it in order to protect the economy from bubble formation. Beyond direct economic implications, they are highly sensitive to the negative effects of an overheated real estate market on the daily lives of the less well off and poor, and the potential of inflation in the housing market to stymie their familial aspirations. A population with an excessively large group of impoverished, “homeless,” and stymied citizens is a potentially unstable one, and there are no principles more central to the governing philosophy of post-Mao China than those of stability and harmony.
Understanding the hand and glove relationship of familial aspiration and broader economic policy and practice is crucial to decoding the ways in which Shijiazhuang’s urban renovation has unfolded. As discussed here, san nian da bian yang kicked off an explosion of new housing, much of it infill/densification units. The spectacle of this massive, city-wide residential renovation overwhelms the eye, but it is the construction and promotion of entirely new neighborhoods on the clean slate of demolished chengzhongcun that provides the most compelling object of analysis for my purposes. Such projects are enormous in scale and totalizing in terms of their capacity to create and will to promote themselves as deliverers of entirely new and, of course, superior ways of life.
One such “clean slate” neighborhood is the 500,000m2 linyin dayuan（林荫大院/Park County) only now rising from the rubble of Beijiao Cun (北焦村). The project has only recently started construction, but its sales centre and the walls surrounding the demolition-construction site have been in place for more than two years. Objectively, the development will represent a massive increase in population density on this piece of land and a correspondingly large profit for its developer, Guangsha Real Estate Development Co. Ltd.
The overarching slogan for the project, fengjing yuanluo de gushi, appeals to familial aspirations to live the kind of good life imagined to be the norm in foreign countries. These understandings of the good life are cited and incited by ads papering the walls that surround the site, and in promotional images featured in the sales centre and circulated on the internet. In one ad, an image depicting a child bathed in filtered sunlight is coupled with the project tag line to promise the opportunity of a “life story” composed in the “scenic courtyards” of this “500,000 square meter shady forest kingdom.” In another, a similarly bucolic image works in tandem with a slogan that alludes to the poetry of Laozi to link the emergence of an improved Shijiazhuang and the re-emergence on the world scene of China as whole.
Buying a home in Park County, these ads promise, is not only the first step toward a happy and prosperous life for one’s family, but also a concrete contribution to the rise of the nation.
1. Concepts like capital over-accumulation, spatio-temporal fixing, and accumulation by dispossession are also crucial — see David Harvey’s The New Imperialism or A Brief History of Neoliberalism for a concise discussion of these terms.
Posted in Photo Essays | Tagged Chengzhongcun, China, pedagogy of everyday life, Redevelopment, shijiazhuang, 城中村，石家庄，拆迁, 中国 | 4 Comments »
A rare blue sky morning allowed me to take this panoramic photo (thanks, iPhone 5) in which I attempted to capture the scale and scope of the redevelopment of one of many of Shijiazhuang’s (Hebei) cheng zhong cun (城中村). A few years ago the city government initiated an accelerated program of urban renovation that included the demolition and redevelopment of about 42 of these urban villages. The result has been an astonishing amount of construction activity, and a thoroughgoing change in the nature of life in the city. I’ve categorized this photo under “The pedagogy of everyday life in China,” but I won’t develop the discussion at this point. Needless to say, the change in lifestyle for the former residents of this converted village will be significant.
The apartment buildings in the foreground (the high rise on the left, two six floor walkups at the centre, and three on the right) date from the late 1990s/early 2000s and are attached to SOE office buildings built on former village land. Directly behind these sit the five walkups that house former residents of the village’s now demolished siheyuan (四合院 — courtyard style homes). In the left middle ground are dozens of 6th floor walk ups built and sold on Shijiazhuang’s vibrant real estate market in the 00s. The high rises in the middle ground and on the horizon are products of the acceleration of redevelopment during and following a government program known as san nian da bianyang. Another group of buildings is set to rise on the last remaining vacant ground (right, middle).
Posted in the pedagogy of everyday life in China | Tagged China, de-ruralization, Dong san zhuang, san nian da bianyang, shijiazhuang, urbanziation | 1 Comment »
This series of posts by Dr. Shibao Guo (University of Calgary, Canada) is a truncated version of an article (Guo, 2012) that appears in a recent special issue of the scholarly journal Canadian and International Education. Part 1 provided an overview of the present state of education for migrants and the curious and little known phenomenon of migrant teachers. Part 2 describes the places where the research was conducted as well as the methods used to collect data.
Due to the obvious practical limitations of studying such a large phenomenon, this study focused on migrant teachers in two cities, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, both in Guangdong Province. These two cities were chosen because it was in Guangdong that Deng Xiaoping initiated experiments with the market economy in the 1980s, a policy shift that led to the mass migration that we see today. The purpose of the study was to understand the unique conditions, challenges, and experiences of migrant teachers. By 2009, Shenzhen’s population had reached 8.9 million, including 6.5 million migrants (Shenzhen Statistics Bureau, 2010). One third of Zhuhai’s population is people without local hukou (户口－household registration). Given the growing migrant population in both cities and the challenges they face, data collected in this study offers a glimpse into the changes in education and the experience of migrant teachers under China’s market economy. Continue Reading »
Posted in China, Chinese education, education in China, Migrant Teachers, Migrant Workers, Research Methodology | Tagged China, Chinese education, Chinese schools, Chinese society, education reform, field research, Mainland China | Leave a Comment »
On the meaning of “individualism” in China…, a discussion of Erica Fox Brindley’s Individualism in Early China: Human Agency and the Self in Thought and Politics (Part 3, Chapter 3)
[hi Lorin, I hope you don't mind that I took the liberty to start the conversation this week. : )]
It is interesting to begin to see the arc of this book. While the first two chapters described forms of individualism that privileged the ruler as the primary mediator of universal authority, chapter 3 presents viewpoints that took the individual as having direct access. There is a narrative progression in chapter 3 itself. The account of Zhuangzi presents a form of individualism that still “depends” on an outside source – directly accessible only if one completely gives up the self, so as to merge with the “transcendent” Dao. Mencius on the other hand, located cosmic authority inside the person with the notion of xing, understanding humans to be intrinsically good. This view of the individual may be the one that comes closest to Western conceptions of the self, namely, the idea that there is something inalienable to and possessed by the human person, and the idea that humans are not entirely continuous with the rest of nature (which the Daoists would argue). Interestingly, it seems that the Mencian view does not however propose a heroic agent who could overcome environmental challenges by sheer will and determination. In recognizing that human nature could either be “fulfilled or obstructed” (pg. 68), that is to say, environmental forces could overcome and overpower the innate tendency to be good, Mencius seems to concede that this naturally endowed moral agency is actually limited vis-à-vis the agency of environment. Brindley mentions that for Mencius, a person is a moral agent “by virtue of living properly and healthfully” (pg. 69), and that all humans have to do is “focus on cultivating and developing what is already inside” (pg. 70). Given this, is there a point at which some people are better able to overcome corrupting external forces than others? Who is responsible for protecting or ensuring the moral development of the human person? The self? Or politicians tasked with the duty of providing an external environment that would be conducive to moral development?
Although the kind of Daoism presented in this chapter resonates much more with my previous understandings, and I was less confused reading this chapter, I’m still having trouble with the idea that this mode of thought is transcendental rather than immanent, that this cosmic agency is not in and of the world. I don’t get how wind can be thought of as “bounded” (pg. 58), and the story about Cook Ding seems to suggest that accessing the Dao does not require transcending the world (although one does indeed have to transcend the self), but to really be with the world, following its multitudinous lines of transformations – in this case, the seams and cavities of an ox.
By the way, I would really love to learn how to nourish my nimbus-like qi, or to work on what little nimbus I have in the first place. ^_^
Posted in Book Reviews, China, Chinese Cosmology, Chinese Culture | 1 Comment »