To continue the 10 year anniversary celebration of Shenzhen Noted, I’m reposting “和谐深圳: building a harmonious society” an early post on what might be called “disorderly” Shenzhen. The accompanying pictures illustrate the underlying fears that have permeated Shenzhen’s development.
On a distressing note, 10 years after I first documented signs of anxiety throughout the emergent city, these generalized fears have left the unofficial sphere and have entered the official sphere of anti-terrorism campaigns and fear-based advertising for private taxi companies. Unfortunately, it seems that the anxiety produced by in-your-face inequality of ten years ago has been displaced onto the bodies of Chinese Muslims, who (in much of the propaganda) are represented as “generalized” Middle Eastern Muslims.
The anti-terrorism campaign warns the Chinese public that terrorists have no human feelings and ruthlessly destroy family life, which is described in Confucian rhetoric–a not so subtle reminder that the “Chinese” nation is Han. This impression is further heightened in an anime anti-terrorist campaign that explicitly associates terrorism with Islam and China’s Muslim province, Xinjiang. The Shenzhou taxi campaign plays upon fears of techy house invasions, showing film stars claiming that, “I fear” how technology allows strangers to know where one lives. The tie-in with the anti-terrorist campaign is familial well-being: because they have your address, these strangers can prey upon your children or wife. The Shenzhen add campaign also extends the anxiety of ten years ago: gates are no longer enough to keep predators away.
Yesterday, I was walking in one of the new sections of Houhai. On my left, behind the walls of an elite gated community, children frolicked in a recently completed swimming pool. On my right, migrant workers hung out at a corner kiosk of a construction site shantytown. The juxtaposition of these two spaces, common throughout Shenzhen, symbolizes the class structure that has enabled the construction of the city. On the one hand, urban residents (whether from other cities or long term Shenzhen residents) occupy the new buildings and spaces—upscale housing, high-rise offices, and shopping malls bulging with designer goods. On the other hand, rural migrants build these spaces, inhabiting temporary structures that vanish at the end of a project. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see children playing or women cooking in front of a row of construction site shanties. Unlike the enclosed lives of the gated community, shantytown lives…
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