莲花山:lianhua mountain park

with friends, i climbed to the top of lianhua mountain park, where deng xiaoping strides purposely into the future.

well, perhaps not toward the future. he is afterall standing in place. nevertheless it is fair to say that because the land beneath him continues to shift, he’s no longer where he started. deng now both overlooks and synthesizes the meaning of the environmentally conscious central axis, as well as the ever more expensive real estate of futian, including huaqiangbei, the rainbow glass buildings of the financial district, the huanggang checkpoint, and numerous gated communities.

it’s hard to know if this exactly is what he intendend when he approved the construction of shenzhen. it’s pretty obvious, however, that this is what current leaders say he meant. accordingly, lianhua park commermorates deng’s 1984 southern tour, when he proclaimed that shenzhen demonstrated the correctness of reform and opening. the next political step, of course, was not toward city hall, but toward the fourteen coastal cities, which began learning from shenzhen. importantly, the practices associated with learning (学习) in china include emulation. so that “learning from shenzhen (学习深圳)” directed leaders in other chinese cities to do what shenzhen had done: dismantle work units, bring in foreign capital, set up labor and housing markets, and build an international city.

sweating in the heat and humidity, we climbed past a kite flying field through the remnants of a lychee orchard and into a palm tree grove to arrive at deng’s monument. there, banyan trees and unbrellas protected most visitors from the sun, while a few others posed in front of deng and the engraved mural of deng xiaoping’s words, “the development and experiences of Shenzhen have proved the correctness of our policy on the establishment of special economic zones (深圳的发展和经验证明,我们建立经济特区的政策是正确的).” deng wrote and presented this inscription on January 26, 1984. at the pinnacle, the decision feels correct. it saturates my senses and suddenly the park, the views, and the easy pleasures of kite flying justify deepening reform. “everyone should have a nice park,” i think unreflexively.

as an early reform joke had it: deng xiaoping comes to a fork in the road. his driver asks, “what should we do.” deng answers, “signal left (toward socialism), but turn right (toward capitalism).”

and that’s the rub. i don’t know how seriously people take the deng statue and plaque, which celebrate a rather banal political message: brought to you by deng xiaoping and the ccp, reform and opening good! instead i worry that propaganda may be as sweet as an afternoon in the park. for the curious, a people’s daily article on the 1992 southern tour sketches the ideological importance of the 1984 southern tour with politically correct reverence.

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