While in Tianjin a friend said to me that she wanted to forward one of my posts about the Hong Kong protests to her WeChat circles, but was afraid of being “harmonized” (被和谐掉) — a euphemism meaning “to be arrested for political activism”, or as Orwell might have said, the crime of speaking one’s position. The expression ironically activates Xi Jinping’s relentless calls for social harmony through a return to Chinese values, that might be otherwise expressed as “shut up and do what you’re told” much as Lee Kwan Yew deployed Neo-Confucianism in his pursuit of a well ordered managed Singapore. Continue reading


guanzhong folk art museum: dynastic architecturelandia

Located at the foot of Wutai Mountain in Xi’an, the Guanzhong Folk Art Museum (关中民俗艺术博物馆) is one of China’s more famous cultural tourism enterprises. In fact, the project launched billionaire peasant Wang Yongzhao (王永赵) into the National People’s Congress, where he has been recognized as a distinguished scholar. Continue reading

of theme parks and the contemporary state

I have been showing my 12-year old niece the sites in Beijing, including the Great Wall. As we wander, I have free associated between these experiences and previous theme park experiences, most recently in Ocean Park, Hong Kong, but before that the original Disneyland in Southern California, the iconic Knott’s Berry Farm, the Jersey shore, its boardwalks and miniature golf courses, as well as several Six Flags and Disneys elsewhere. (Years ago I even visited the uncomfortably super-mini Disney in Hong Kong.)

There are, of course, perhaps more explicit connections to be made with Williamsburg, Jockey Hollow, and other historic sites that I have visited (and actually in Shenzhen I have been involved in promoting historical preservation of local sites), but.  In terms of pageantry and intent to re-present the world, my mind keeps returning to Disney. Continue reading

not just a china thing: thoughts on keep’um stupid governance and open access to academic publications

While in Beijing, I have been reading David Campbell’s Politics without Principle: Sovereignty, Ethics, and the Narratives of the Gulf War. I am grateful that Campbell has made a pdf of this important work available online not least because as an unaffiliated intellectual who happens to be based in Shenzhen, internet access structures my encounters to academic work. One would think that US institutions would be working to make more research available to more people, but alas this is not the case. University libraries and the virtual services they subscribe to continue to function as if they had limited paper copies of books and journals –with no lending privileges extended beyond their hedges. Continue reading


cultural smog

I am in Tianjin where the smog is thick. It creates grey on grey cityscapes and irritates eyes and throats. My niece, a lovely and talented young woman jokes that, “Chinese people have iron lungs,” instantly showing up the dystopian anxieties that animate cyberpunk and urban fantasy (as popular literary genres, not simply as lifestyle choices).

I remember similarly edged jokes from my mother’s relatives and friends when we went back to the UP, where iron mining and tree harvesting for the paper mills had reshaped the wild north. “That,” they said with a half apologetic laugh when they glimpsed our pinched noses, “that is the smell of money.” Continue reading


occupy central: it’s not what you think

The US press, like many of my Chinese friends have focused on what the Hong Kong protestors won’t accomplish. This focus on future violence against students completely ignores the courageous possibilities that are offered in the present. Continue reading


international community. china?

Over the weekend CZC curated a cultural exchange between the Dalang Street Office and Peter Moser of more music. A talented and inspirational music facilitator, Pete asks questions that go to the heart of community work — why this, why here? And the ever vexed question for moi (especially in light of the Hong Kong protests) — where do we draw the line between doing our work and our work becoming complicit with Party goals of social control at the expense of democracy and economic justice? Continue reading