the thing about egalitarian ideologies

is that very unequal material living environments have to be made to look, well, equal. This is why the current Chinese government focus on growth rates, rather than actual GDP figures matter. With mandated growth rates, every city looks like they’re growing (more or less) equally, while others don’t look like they are stagnating. However, when the actual GDP figures for, let’s say, the Pearl River Delta cities are compared, what we see is that three cities–Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen–completely dominate the region, even as collectively the 10 PRD cities are estimated to account for 70% of Guangdong’s GDP (and only 30% of population). Moreover, given that sub provincial Shenzhen can’t (yet) officially have a higher GDP than provincial Guangzhou, we have know way of knowing if Shenzhen is in fact earning less than Guangzhou.

Provocation du jour: government growth rate targets directly impact a functionary’s ability to rise within administrative ranks, even as the business of Shenzhen remains, well, profitable business. Inquiring minds want to know: is this a contradiction between the people, or a meaningful crack between the government and its residents (居民)?

业绩 is calculated in terms of GDP percentages!!

I’ve been searching for 2014 GDP statistics for cities in the PRD. One would think that would be easy. But it’s not. The reason, I’ve discovered while jumping from city website to city website is that targets are set in terms of growth rates, rather than the actual GDP figure. In turn, government websites tend to publish growth percentages (to advertise that they’ve hit their targets), rather than rawer data. So, my a-ha moment du jour.

reclaimed reef

military installations in the south china sea

Victor Robert Lee presents satellite images and analysis of China’s New Military Installations in the Spratly Islands. His conclusion is that China is creating bases out of land formations reclaimed on top of coral reefs. Sad images, sad thoughts, and ironic resonances with The Fable of Donkey Island and Piggy Island. I’m especially distressed by the ongoing connections between booming economies and actual bombs.

sunday afternoon in dafen

Dafen is now a destination, with artists posing as painters, and visitors posing with paintings. Meanwhile, the subway is open and many of the new developments are opening and real estate is booming, so that it’s now difficult to find the painting village–it’s a sinkhole in the midst of rising towers. Impressions, below:

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gentrification in baishizhou

Here’s the thing about urban renewal in Shenzhen; it takes time. Consequently, although withering practices can be sensed in Baishizhou, nevertheless, day-to-day it all seems like the hustle and bustle hasn’t changed. Indeed, the neighborhood continues to experience low-level gentrification. There is, for example, now an independent coffee shop in Baishizhou, while outside on Shahe Road, individual upgrades continue. So photos from the coffee shop and ongoing upgrades suggest that even if young people in Baishizhou aren’t exactly hanging out and playing sports, nevertheless, there even low-income residents engage in leisure activities and consumption, which in turn points to the complexity of Baishizhou’s demographics and ongoing construction of Shenzhen’s youth culture.

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an interim project at handshake 302: 隐于城

Liu He is one of the more active curators at Handshake 302. While we are waiting for the students to prepare their “Shake Hands with the Future”exhibition, he is using the space as a refuge for people who want 8 hours alone, without their phone. The project, “Hidden in the City” is simple. At 9:30, Liu He meets the participant at Handshake 302, makes sure they have water and understand how the toilet works (and often doesn’t) and then takes their phone. At 10:00 a.m., the participant is “on the clock”, on retreat from the city for the next 8 hours, coming off at 6:00, when the cell phone will be returned, a dinner served along with a 302 salon/ discussion about what it all means. Below a translation of Liu He’s curatorial statement for “Hidden in the City”; the Chinese version follows. Continue reading

Chinese Tourists and Six Uncivil Behaviors – 文明

Mary Ann O'Donnell:

Uncivil tourists and a call to post “act civilized” announcements in Chinese outside of China. The post has me thinking about 文明 both as a technology of regulating relationships between strangers and as Ann Anagnost’s early work on “civilization” as a means of regulating the bodies of peasants so that they might be mobilized more easily for post-Mao politics (see the prescient National Past-Times: Narrative, Representation, and Power in Modern China, an anthology of essays published during the early and mid 1990s), begging the question: just who benefits from 文明?

Originally posted on China IQ:


These days, Chinese tourists have developed a bad reputation, not only abroad.  Chinese people are also tired of Chinese tourists.  “东方卫报” (dōngfāng wèibào – “The Eastern Guardian”), a Nanjing based daily newspaper, published the following article on their front page on Tuesday April 7, 2015:


The heading translates to “Take it Easy on Your Outings: Six Kinds of Uncivil Behavior to Take Note Of.”  The six uncivil behaviors are listed below:

违规吸烟 (wéi guī xīyān) – smoking illegally

随地吐痰 (suídì tù tán) – spitting phlegm everywhere

争抢座位 (zhēngqiǎng zuòwèi) – to scramble for the seats

乱扔垃圾 (luànrēng lājī) – to litter garbage

大声喧哗 (dàshēng xuānhuá) – to be noisy and to make a racket

推挤插队 (tuī jǐ chāduì) – to push, shove and cut in line

Examples of the behavior:

A Chinese tourist was fined in Thailand for washing her feet in a public bathroom on Phi Phi Don island

Failed System

The incidents including Chinese tourists within China and abroad are too numerous to count, but one thing is…

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