Archive for the ‘China’ Category

I use the word “rural” with reservations here, as what is rural in China would hardly be recognized as such in many other places. At any rate, I offer this (very) short video as a supplement to a photo essay on School Courtyard Pedagogy I posted here some time ago. This video was shot in Summer 2013. By the way, before going off on conformity, have a close look at the fine-grained chaos at about the 13s mark. Try supervising that, teacher!



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This post by justrecently captures a more in your face example of what I often lump under the more encompassing category of pedagogy of everyday life. My main purpose in focussing on the mundane rather than propaganda is to draw attention to aspects of education/learning that often go unnoticed as such. Note that one of the characteristics I dismiss in lumping these things (e.g., propaganda, planning, schooling, design) together is intent. Another is awareness. I’m not particularly concerned, in other words, what the intent of the author/creator is or whether or not the consumer of the message is conscious that any messaging is going on.

In the case of propaganda, of course, such questions become very important. This isn’t to say that the purveyors in this case see anything but truth in the examples raised here, or that they are particularly concerned with subtlety. Stories like these ought to be understood as both warning and dog whistling…though this particular whistling session is at a frequency that all can hear.

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I’m not sure how I feel about this development. If you’ve ever been to China, you’ll know that there are always more than enough police, security guards, and military personnel around that one never feels entirely unsafe. That sense of security is, of course, in many ways illusory, although it is a cliche to say that this is because the police themselves are the more worrisome threat. Indeed, police indifference seems to be the more serious problem, as was the case one day about ten years ago when I saw a man with a massive head injury ignored as he staggered down the road in front of the public security bureau (not their job!) and subsequently honked off of the road by a police cruiser.

No doubt this move has little significance for those already intent on thumbing their noses at the powers that be. These people are only too aware of the semi-concealed power and potential violence of state security forces. But if Chinese police are to become more armed, how will this change the way they are viewed by everyday folk? In my experience and that of most under most circumstances, Chinese police are not threatening at all, though they may be profoundly annoying in certain capacities.

I do realize that this is not the experience of every foreign resident and local. I don’t have dark skin. I don’t tend to wander the streets at night in a drunken state. And I haven’t been doing anything (intentionally) illegal or (obviously) politically threatening. Still, that police don’t carry weapons makes them seem less threatening than your average officer in any given Canadian city. If you’ve noticed as I have the increasingly robust, armoured look of police uniforms (not to mention weapons array and the physique and demeanour of officers themselves) in recent decades, you’ll know what I mean. A City of Edmonton police officer for good or bad just looks and often acts like someone not to be messed with. This isn’t to say that you’re more likely to run afoul of police in Edmonton than the average Chinese city. Of course that depends largely upon a combination of who you are*, what you’re doing**, and what officer you happen to cross paths with that day***. Still, I would much rather run afoul of an officer with no gun (and maybe a notepad) than one with a pistol, taser, club, bullet proof vest, and cruiser with 400 (?) horsepower under the hood.

All of which begs the question: is Edmonton really that much more dangerous than Shijiazhuang?


*     race, class, gender, age, homeless vs. not, etc.
**   protesting, stealing, j-walking, loitering outside the public library wearing dirty clothes, collecting bottles with a stolen shopping cart, stealing investors’ money
*** for example, if you are an average Edmonton semi-homeless person riding a bottle-collecting bicycle and your are trying to use a crosswalk blocked by a right turning police cruiser, you should not make the mistake of mentioning to the wrong officer on the wrong day that he is committing a traffic violation. Said officer might turn on his lights, drive down the wrong side of the road in order to apprehend you for…something or other. Like I said, wrong officer, wrong day.

China’s Police Will Carry Guns Unlike Any Others – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

via China’s Police Will Carry Guns Unlike Any Others – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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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)


Top polluted cities in China at the moment I captured this image. Shijiazhuang is 4th, but most of the other cities on the list are either part of the SJZ’s hinterland or “downwind.”


A rare blue sky day allowed us to capture this shot at sunset. Yes, those are apartment buildings right in the shadow of those cooling towers. If we could pan to the left we would see apartment blocks in even closer proximity to plants like this one.

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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. (more…)

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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


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). (more…)

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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)

kuanita’s thoughts

[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. ^_^

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