hallucinating in shanghai

The stories coming out of Shanghai are increasingly distressing. Thousands of people are being rounded up and forcibly moved to quarantine centers, which are still under construction. Once inside the centers, detainees are told that they are on their own until testing can be arranged because it takes two consecutive negatives to get out. Indeed, the situation is so fraught that it has brought the specters of Xinjiang and the Cultural Revolution into the conversation. Some have started commenting under pictures of the Big Whites (大白 nickname for those in hazmat suits), “the red guards have arrived!” Offline, the outraged assumption that Shanghai (SHANGHAI!) could be treated like Xinjiang is more vocal, and occasionally mentioned online. But I’ll get to that, below. There’s much to unpack in all of this, especially Xi Jinping’s fraught relationship with the CR, Xinjiang and, of course, Covid. After all, the 20th Party Congress will be held (presumably) some time in October, and Xi has hitched his coronation third term to zero-Covid. Today, however, I’m translating and commenting on a copy of a chat record that’s low key circulating on WeChat. I’ll be responding in the next post.

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are we all living in xinjiang?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why the quarantine in Shenzhen has been so smooth and this is what I’ve come up with: the state is using its anti-terrorist infrastructure to control population movement and combat the spread 2019-nCoV. Continue reading

the shenzhen anti-terrorism campaign

Although China has been strengthening its anti-terrorism campaign over the past year or so, the Shenzhen anti-terrorism campaign is recent. Ideologically, the campaign promotes a Neo-Confucian message of family first–a value that terrorists are purported not to share. Unfortunately, terrorists are more or less consistently represented as Muslim. In fact, the stereotypes used in the campaign are familiar from conversations I’ve had with friends over the past decade, when I have been told that Islam is not a religion but a terrorist organization. More alarmingly, as in the United States, Chinese anti-terrorism feeds anti Muslim sentiments and justifies increasing militarization of public life. Sigh.

Of note: the May 22, 2014 attack (in which men in ski masks jumped out of two vans to attack people in Urumqi) has become the stereotype of terrorist attack in the campaign. The following Inside Story by Aljazeera attempts to understand the increasingly violent situation.

和谐深圳:building a harmonious society II

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.

Shenzhen Noted

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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political subtext in chinese television: bo xilai, wang lijun, and pla history

Just after Wang Lijun was reported on “medical leave”, Bo Xilai went to Kunming on an inspection tour, with a special visit to a military museum. Chongqing news broadcast footage of the tour. Now it is probable that this tour and visit to the military museum were previously scheduled. However, within the context of the Wang Lijun debacle and the rise of the Princeling Party to power, these images of Chongqing’s Secretary inspecting toothpaste and toilet paper resonated ironically.

During the revolutionary war, the People’s Liberation established six military regions: the Northeast (东北军区), the North (华北军区), the East (华东军区), the South (中南军区), the Southwest (西南军区) and the Northwest (西北军区). Each region had a General and a Political Commissar. Bo Xilai’s father, Bo Yibo was the Political Commissar of the North, Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun was the Political Commissar of the Northwest, and Deng Xiaoping was the Political Commissar of the Southwest. Thus, in visiting Kunming, Bo Xilai was not simply going on an inspection tour, but also retracing the revolutionary steps of his father’s generation and thereby declaring his revolutionary lineage. Continue reading