Here’s the thing about the retreat of manufacturing from the townships and villages of the Pearl River Delta; these areas have urbanized, migrants have settled in and are raising families, but as the low-end jobs and shops that once sustained local and migrant communities follow the factories elsewhere, these neighborhoods are withering. Consider, for example, the older section of Dongguan–莞城, which only twenty years ago was a vibrant community and today is an abandoned reminder of the area’s complicated history with Ming pirates and British opium, its deep relationships with the late Qing Chinese diaspora, and the Pearl River Delta’s urban village origins. Old Dongguan has become a focus of concern for urban planners and concerned citizens: how to revitalize an “old street” that is no longer viable, but sits on prime real estate, or more precisely, inquiring minds want to know: to raze or not to raze historic areas and landmark buildings? Continue reading
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.
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.
If you’ve had the privilege of walking Old Shajing with anthropologist Cheng Jian (程建), you know that the Chens settled the area during the Southern Song (960-1127). You also know that the Chen family network stretched throughout Dongguan and Xin’an Counties and that when most of Xin’an was abandoned during the Qing Dynasty relocation order (迁海令1644—1661), significant sections of Shajing remained settled despite the fact that it fell squarely within an area controlled and/or influenced by Koxinga (an honorific from 國姓爺; pinyin: Guóxìngyé; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Kok-sèng-iâ, his name was 郑成功). Clan members also received special dispensation that allowed them to travel into the coastal no-man’s land to harvest sea salt. That’s right: administrative borders, cross border exceptions, and concomitant territorial reorganization have a deep history in the area.
In a series of responses to E.J. Eitel’s Europe in China: The History of Hongkong from the Beginning to the Year 1882, I read within and against the emergence of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. I am not so much interested in providing a comprehensive history of the SEZ as I am in tracking Shen Kong, a form post-Mao post-coloniality that is one of the roots of the Belt and Road initiative. As I read, I note associations that link contemporary Shenzhen and colonial Hong Kong. In those flashes of awareness, the norms and forms of contemporary global restructuring make uncanny and distressing sense. Page citations are noted in parentheses and refer to the 1895 edition of Europe in China.
Sex in the Chasm Continue reading
Today, I walked the village named Baishizhou, which is located south of Shennan Road and is not scheduled for demolition. This other, lesser known Baishizhou is tucked away behind Window of the World, middling housing estates, and the KK Banna Mall. Unlike the Baishizhou that is scheduled for demolition, this other, less expensive Baishizhou does not hum and pop, does not buzz with entrepreneurialism and the rush of young office workers, but rather transports us back to Shenzhen 2.0; at the turn of the millennium, most Shenzhen neighborhoods were like this: straight-forwardly residential in the middle with an outer ring of functional shops and fast food, and hardware stores that spilled into the street because the sidewalk had not yet been laid down. Continue reading