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If so, please don’t move it to Shijiazhuang, a city that tops the list of most polluted cities in China, if not the world. Don’t be deceived by rankings that show the city anywhere but at the top. Usually cities near or above it on the list are either part of its hinterland or downwind.

The air isn’t always bad in Shijiazhuang, but you’ll be lucky to find a day when it’s not…unless you’re my uncle and aunt, who found three miraculously clear days on their visit. Fortunately the terrible air is balanced by the welcoming and generous attitude of the great people of this city.

See this story for a discussion of the problem of pollution, a proposed solution, and some obvious objections to the idea (here is another)

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Have a look at this piece by an old hockey friend in Beijing. The object of his attention is not “education” in the common sense of the term, but taken as a pedagogy of everyday life or diffuse education in Bourdieu & Passeron’s sense, a number of interesting points are made.

Gervais has lived in China for a good long time, as becomes clear from the article itself, and has a “foreign” perspective — based on diverse experiences and roles — second to none. To be frank, Gervais is not a great hockey player, but his writing on China seems as effortless as his on-ice work is not.

If you don’t read french, Google Translate does a pretty good job of things.

Chine: objet de désir : article – Revue Argument.

via Chine: objet de désir : article – Revue Argument.

Who says the Chinese danwei is dead? Eggs and toilet paper (FREE!!) beside my desk today!

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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).20130617-131602.jpgChina’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.20130617-131439.jpg

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.20130617-131536.jpg

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.

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Notes

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.

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Dong San Zhuang

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).

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.

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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 »

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 provides an overview of the present state of education for migrants and the curious and little known phenomenon of migrant teachers.

Photo credit: SEAN YONG / REUTERS

Photo credit: SEAN YONG / REUTERS

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Migration is a term used to describe the movement of populations from one place to another. Economic globalization and modern transportation technologies have spurred and greatly enhanced the mobility of people across national boundaries. With its international focus, the current debate on migration ignores or overlooks internal movement of people within nation-states. China’s migrant population reached 221 million in 2011 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2011), meaning that China is experiencing the largest internal migration in human history (Fishman, 2005). Another 300 million people are expected to move in the next three decades, most notably from rural to urban areas (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2011). Continue Reading »

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