only connect

The two-day event was called “Only Connect.” We emphasized the infrastructure that makes neighborhoods out of houses and buildings. Yes, every building had an electrical light, water tubes, sewage tubes and access to the main road. And yes It’s also true, every time that Handshake 302 holds an event at the P+V Gallery, the kids rock our world. Take a look at the smiles that creativity brings! More about Handshake 302 here and here.

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opiate of the mass-market

Today’s postcard is a bit of jump jump jump–from Hong Kong free traders to the rise of openly Nazi candidates in the 2018 midterm elections via a bodice-ripper or two. 

Here’s the question: Is E.J. Eitel’s Europe in Asia actually a Victorian-era pirate bromance before the fact? That’s the question that keeps bubbling up when I read his characterization of opium pushers free traders like William Jardine and James Matheson. Compare, for example, how smoothly the prologue from a popular historical romance links up with a passage from Eitel: Continue reading

in the news, eighty years ago

A bit of follow-up on the persistence of colonial structures.  On the same page that The Evening Telegraph recorded the sale of four ships from China Merchants to Jardines, we see the galling legacies of geographic morality. And yes, the stories could have been tweeted today with the caveat that today we are angry and then we were smug. Sigh. Continue reading

what’s so free about free trade?

Like many late 19th century Britons, E. J. Eitel saw the East India Company (EIC) as the economic equivalent of the Qing Dynasty, asserting, “However galling this stolid assertion of self-adequacy and supremacy, and this persistent exclusivism of the Chinese Government, must have been to the East India Company’s officers and to the Ambassadors specially commissioned to bolster up the position of the East India Company in China, it must not be forgotten that the East India Company was, within its own sphere, just as haughty, domineering and exclusive a potentate, as any Emperor of China (19).”

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unionization at jasic technology

Sharing a SACOM video about the situation at Jasic Technology in Pingshan (northeastern Shenzhen).

For more on efforts to help workers in China, check out SACOM’s FB page.

lion dancing

During the 1990s, when commercial housing first took off in Shenzhen, double lion gates were common. Today, they seem reminiscent of a time when the desire to muscle forward seemed the point of all this development. In retrospect, it is tempting to see in the commercial appropriation of the double lions intimations of the ways in which China Merchants is the successor the British East India Company: from chartered monopoly to state-owned enterprise in the South China Sea via US American containerization. Below, images of the EIC coat of arms and the door to the Shazui ancestral hall, circa 2010.

Coat_of_arms_of_the_East_India_Company

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first look at the belt and road

Its difficult when looking at a map of the proposed Belt and Road and not associate the maritime road with British colonialism, albeit in reverse and more than a century after the fact. But that’s what’s so distressing. When the British parliament dissolved the East India Company (EIC), it did not dismantle the systems of unjust and unjustifiable extraction that EIC had put in place over roughly four centuries of occupation, exploitation, and forced participation in the system. Instead, independence movements saw the rise of local elites who were determined to benefit from the system, justifying their profits with respect to local values and structures of oppression. In other words, it was never just the Brits, but also the Brits and their local running dogs (to use Mao Zedong’s felicitous phrase) and even after Independence, the dogs kept yapping, securing military support from the US and elsewhere (for the distressing tale of the fate of the Third World as a revolutionary ideal, check out The Darker Nations by Vijay Prashad).

The problem, of course, was that the profitability of the British system depended on opium; where would surplus profits (to fund industrialization, for example) come from without monopoly, forced labor, and addiction? Certainly, once India regained control of the Bihar plantations and China retook its ports, both countries were faced with the problem of “surpassing England and catching up with the United States” in the absence of captive markets and a drug monopoly to finance their industrial revolutions. And this may be why Europeans and US Americans fear the Belt and Road: if you’re not a running dog with Chinese characteristics, just what are your options in the new world dis/order (and yes, I’m looking at you, midwestern farmer)?

china-silk-road

Map from an early analysis of Belt and Road, eurasia review.

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