The process of uprooting the northern section of Baishizhou has begun through withering practices–the removal of social nutrients in order to promote razing and evacuations as inevitable, necessary, desired.
In the Baishizhou area, withering practices include street clean-ups of bbq stands. As little as three years ago, northern Baishizhou hummed with activity from 11 pm well into dawn. Now that activity has been (according to reports) halved.
Withering practices also include razing sections of Baishizhou that are not controlled by the five villages corporation, but owned by the state-owned enterprise, Shahe Enterprises. These areas are located just outside the red line of territory controlled by the village, but are considered part of the Baishizhou neighborhood and explicitly contribute to its economy. The images below, for example, are of the area next to the Shahe Department Store. The first meeting of CZC ended with a bbq dinner in the plaza that was located behind the store.
Most corrosively, withering practices include hard pragmatism of accepting that the changes must go through. This hard pragmatism includes covering Baishizhou with posters about redevelopment as well as publishing a guidebook about Shenzhen architecture that includes southern Baishizhou, but not the more diverse and interesting north. Among migrant workers and their families, this hard pragmatism takes the form of resignation to the inevitability of urban renewal.
Awareness of withering practices sneaks up on one. For example, I only became aware of how pervasive withering practices in Baishizhou are through engagement its leaders. Two years ago, both the five villages and the community center were willing to work with us to create events and exhibit art in public spaces. Today, the five villages have declined to collaborate with us, while the community center leader who worked with us is on sick leave. Thus, our projects have been silently pushed into the realm of the unofficial, unobtrusively positioning us as (potentially) in opposition to redevelopment plans, which have legal force.
In short, withering practices in northern Baishizhou are not immediately apparent, but become clear when we think about the position of the five villages, the developer, and the municipal government to redeveloping Baishizhou:
- Activities should promote demolition of buildings and evacuation of residents;
- Activities should lessen neighborhood complexity;
- Activities should contribute to social stability.
At the moment, northern Baishizhou still hops, entrepreneurs still open coffee shops and renovate their stores, and thousands of students throng the streets, their Shenzhen school uniforms a sign of their inclusive exclusion from the city. And yet. For the first time in three years working in northern Baishizhou, and almost twenty years walking its alleys, I feel the chill of the approaching juggernaut.