I am a Shenzhener

Just had an interesting talk with a young man, who grew up in Yuanling. Of note was his comparison of Yuanling New Village, an example of 80s work unit housing (单位房) with Beijing’s hutong. When I pressed for an explanation of why Yuanling was to Shenzhen as hutong to Beijing, he said because Shenzhen people come from all over.

But, I countered, what about the local villages?

He insisted that Shenzheners began to be Shenzheners in the Reform era, no matter whether their anscestors came from outside Shenzhen or were Baoan natives. Moreover, he was taking pictures and recording the history of Yuanling because he’s afraid it will be gentrified, much like the hutong.

Hopeful conversation because it shows a commitment to embracing Shenzhen’s past as a source of common identity, rather than basing a common Shenzhen identity on what we will build and buy in the unsettled future.

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