The Fishing Village that Became a World Symbol: 渔民村

So, I have been catching up on the Shenzhen documentary, 沧海桑田:深圳村庄30年. After setting the historic stage with rural poverty and economic immigration / cold war defection (episode 1) and then national policy (episode 2), the documentary turns to specific villages both to illustrate general trends in SEZ history and to introduce the players. So today, 渔民村 (Yumin Village – episode 3), at the heart of the earliest reforms.

Yumin Village has an important place in both national Chinese and local Shenzhen symbolic geography for three reasons, but most importantly for revealing the prejudices built into the landscape, locally, nationally, and internationally. Continue reading

Breaking the Ice

So, episode 2 of 沧海桑田 is 破冰. What was the ice and how was it broken? A few notes, below.

Episode 2 begins with shots of thick ice on the Huai river, the narrator metaphorically speaking about the frozen space between two shores. Not only an obvious (and simultaneous) reference to the Sino-British border (on either side of the Shenzhen river) and the Taiwan Straits, but also a description of how the planned economy made the lives of Anhui farmers difficult. A relevant reminder: the reforms initiated in Shenzhen began with Wan Li (万里)’s efforts to liberalize agrarian production in a part of the country where it does snow. Continue reading

沧海桑田:The transformation of Shenzhen Villages

For those wondering, is there a documentary on Shenzhen villages out there? The answer is yes and its 15 hours long! CCTV and SZTV produced 沧海桑田:深圳村庄30年,  a 30-episode television documentary to commemorate the SEZ’s 30th anniversary.

Not unexpectedly, the documentary’s ultimate happy end is urbane Shenzhen. Nevertheless, each of the 30 episodes does raise issues worth talking about and also gives current Party takes on these issues, which is always useful information. In fact, that take may be the point; the commemoration of the SEZ’s 30th Anniversary included a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of pre-reform Baoan society and history, reminding us that the villages no longer exist as such. What remains are ideological and economic struggles over the properties held by [former village] stock-holding corporations that have not yet been fully integrated into the Municipality’s urban apparatus.

That said, however, there is also the question of what a truly integrated Shenzhen society might look like. And consequently it is interesting and hopeful to think that the economic questions may also force re-evalution of who belongs in the city.

So, how are those ideological battles being waged in the contemporary SEZ?

Continue reading