shenzhen book of changes

I’ve started a new video project, “Shenzhen Book of Changes” with Marco Flagg. Our first episode is up on Facebook.

yumin village: changing meanings of “farmer housing”

Just recently got my paws on “The History of Yumin Village (渔民村村史)”. Yumin Village, of course, was the village that Deng Xiaoping visited in 1984, during his first inspection trip to the SEZs. Xi Jinping followed up with a visit in 2012. So yes, this village has played an important symbolic role both in the ideological construction of post-Mao society and in representations of  pre-reform Shenzhen Bao’an County. What struck me as I flipped through the pages was how this transformation can be readily represented in the changing typology of “farmer housing (农民房)”. Continue reading

shen kong: flies, ants, termites, and locusts

In January 2014, anti-Mainland sentiment in Hong Kong resulted in protests calling for the “locusts” of Mainland smugglers to leave the territory and for border controls to be tightened against them. The expression “locusts” appeared again in a 2015 description of Mainland students studying at Hong Kong universities and “stealing jobs” from locals. A week ago, there was another burst of anger against “locusts”, this time against the small time parallel traders (“water guests or 水客“) who purchase goods in Hong Kong for resale in Shenzhen and other Mainland areas. In turn, pro-Mainland blogs have argued that “local termites harm Hong Kong more than locusts do (本土白蚁比蝗虫更损香港)”. Continue reading

a new year, a renovated seaworld

January 1, 2014. Shekou is preparing for the 30th anniversary of Deng’s 1984 visit to Shenzhen and Zhuhai, January 24-29. At the time, the tour was also an explicit celebration of Shekou, a different model of reforming and opening the Maoist apparatus. Images below are of renovations as of December 31, 2013. Yes, there is a light show. Yes, the transformers flash and when you ride the stationary bikes they blast a Beyond song that was popular in the mid-1980s. And yes, the Ming Wah is now in the water even as the coastline extends beyond Nuwa. Impressions of the upgrade, below:

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more from jonathan bach

Open Democracy’s Cities in Conflict project has a posted “Shenzhen: Constructing the City, Reconstructing Subjects” by Jonathan Bach, a scholar who crafts elegant and insightful essays on Shenzhen. Here’s a taste:

Premised on exports and experiment, Shenzhen is a city stretched between high expectations and the unintended consequences of constant expansion. Great expectations lie in its DNA; from Deng Xiaoping’s conviction that the creation of Shenzhen in 1979 would spur China’s reform and opening, to his prodding in 1992 that the city not “act as women with bound feet,” to current leader Xi Jinping’s symbolic choice of Shenzhen for his first official visit in December 2012 to signal his reform agenda. Shenzhen did meet expectations, and then some. As one of our greatest contemporary urban experiments, the staggering growth that made Shenzhen synonymous with the rise of “Made in China” must be regarded as much as the result of massive improvisation as of master planning. And today, what started as a city of exception is a site of an ongoing struggle to define the rule.

Visit Open Democracy not only to read this essay, but also to contextualize what’s happening in Shenzhen with respect to other mega-city projects worldwide.

demise of the shenzhen youth herald

In April this year, Cao Changqing (曹长青 who now operates an influential Chinese language news source) posted “Bo Xilai’s Father Destroyed the Shenzhen Youth Herald (薄熙来父亲灭掉《深圳青年报》)” to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the closing of the Shenzhen newspaper, where he began his career in journalism. The post was prompted by a conversations with Yan Jiaqi (严家其), who had been the Head of the Politics Department, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (中国社科院政治所长) during the 1986-87 student movement and was an advisor to both Hu Yaobang and his successor, Zhao Ziyang. Indeed, Yan Jiaqi himself would flee to Paris after his support of student protests in the 1989 democracy movement.

In the early years of reform, the Shenzhen Youth Herald was, along with Shanghai’s World Economic Herald (世界经济导报), one of the two most independent newspapers in China. Consequently, despite being a small newspaper, the Youth Herald had a national subscription base, providing Chinese intellectuals a platform for debating progressive ideas and evaluating ongoing experiments in reform Chinese society. On October 21, 1986, for example, the newspaper printed Qian Chaoying (钱超英)’s contraversial opinion piece, “I Support Commerade Xiaoping’s Decision to Retire (我赞成小平同志退休)”.

In the manner of traditional intellectuals, Shenzhen University professor of literature, Qian Chaoying’s writing style was sincere and humble, but the content was unmistakably radical. Moreover, the piece drew directly on and from Shenzhen’s experience, asking: Why must the People show our sincere and deep feelings for Deng Xiaoping by sacrificing further reform of the political system (为什么表达人民对小平同志纯朴深挚的普遍感情,就非要以延缓政治体制改革的进程为代价不可呢)? On Qian’s reading, Deng’s retirement would allow China to reflect on and establish a more just political system, a system that was more in keeping with the needs of reform, rather than a return to the cult politics, which had characterized the Cultural Revolution glorification of Mao Zedong.

Yan told Cao that Bo Yibo (薄一波, Bo Xilai’s father and one of the Eight Elders of the CCP) was not only furious about the opinion piece, but had also approached it as an attack the power of older and already retired leaders. During a meeting on political reform, Bo Yibo participated as a consultant. Zhao Ziyang was talking about the opinion piece with Peng Chong (彭冲). Upon overhearing the conversation, Bo Yibo became livid and is reported to have screamed at the younger leaders, “You are already fifty, sixty and seventy years old. We won’t die and you won’t rise (你们也五十六、七岁了吧?我们不死,你们也上不来).” Hu Qili (胡启立) was apparently so frightened that he immediately showed his support for the elders, wishing that the the old leaders of the proletarian revolution would live to a healthy old age (我们希望老一代的无产阶级革命家健康长寿). Importantly, at that closed meeting, Bo Yibo called for the Party to investigate who had written and the newspaper that had published the opinion piece. The word used, zhuicha (追查) meant to find out who Qian Chaoying was speaking for. Bo Yibo assumed that neither Qian Chaoying, nor the Youth Herald was acting as an independent voice, but rather was acting on behalf of one of the young reformers, most likely Hu Yaobang.

The opinion piece was published at a critical time in Central politics. Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, Deng Xiaoping’s “right and left hands” were pushing for further political liberalization. Less, than two months after the letter was published, students organized public protests across over a dozen cities in support of political and economic liberalization. Astrophysicist, Fang Lizhi (方励之) led the protests, calling for introducing political reforms that would ultimately end the one-Party system and the continuing use of government as an instrument of Party policy. Two other intellectuals, Wang Ruowang (王若望) and Liu Binyan (刘宾雁) also led the intellectuals. It is said that Deng disliked Fang, Wang, and Liu, directing Hu to dismiss them from the Party, but Hu refused. In the fallout, Hu was forced into retirement because it was said he had been too lenient with student protestors. The Shenzhen Youth Herald was also one of the victims of the 1987 crackdown. The Shenzhen Youth Herald was closed and Cao Changqing banned for life from working in journalism at the same time that Hu Yaobang was forced into retirement. Two years later, the Tian’anmen protests would begin when students gathered to eulogize Hu Yaobang. The now defunct World Economic Herald published an article supporting the students’ call to re-evaluate Hu’s legacy.

More Princeling drama: Guagua returns and possible public appearance by Bo Xilai

Yesterday, Epoch times reported that the FBI repatriated Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai’s son, Bo Guagua. Why should we care?

Before the 18th National People’s Congress opened, the Party had stripped Bo Xilai of his Party standing and his post, which is called “double removal (薄熙来双开)” and sentenced Gu Kailai to death, with a two-year probationary period. So one would think that the Congress would open and the folks at the top would get on with sentencing Bo Xilai and making official appointments. However, the 18th NPC has opened and we still don’t know what exactly is happening.

We can speculate, however, that with the repatriation of Guagua, apparently the United States has decided to help Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping do whatever it is they’re doing behind closed doors. It may be that Gu Kailai was actually poisoned, and Guagua needs to give evidence. It may also be that he knows something about his parents’ affairs. More importantly, whatever the legal reasons for dragging Guagau back home, the fact of his return seems to indicate that Hu Jintao and / or Xi Jinping have decided to break with Deng Xiaoping’s famous decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s children from prosecution in the post Tian’anmen era.

Common wisdom holds that given the decision to deploy the military to squash the protests in 1989, Deng Xiaoping had no other option than placing Zhao Ziyang under house arrest. Nevertheless, he expressed his solidarity with his former protege by announcing that investigations into Tian’anmen would not include the children of prominent leaders. In fact, in the post-1989 era, Zhao Ziyang’s daughter, Wang Yannan (王雁南) has been active campaigning for the rehabilitation of her father and other leaders.

Deng Xiaoping’s decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s four sons, let alone his wife and her family reflected a modern understanding of the family. Traditionally, when high-ranking officials were sentenced, the victims included “executing the nine branches of a lineage (灭门九族)”. Chinese kinship traditionally reckons lineage through the father-son relationship (agnatic descent-家族), but also distinguishes branches within the lineage through mother-daughter-and sister marriages (嫁). The nine kinship branches (九族) are:

  1. Father’s family, four kinship branches — self (kinship branches counted from eldest and other sons), married paternal aunts and cousins, married sisters and sisters’ children, married daughters and grandchildren;
  2. Mother’s family, three kinship branches — mother’s father’s family, mother’s mother’s family, and mother’s sister’s family;
  3. Wife’s family, two kinship branches — father-in-law’s family and mother-in-law’s family.

Obviously, contemporary Princeling court dramas are different from the Confucian first, second, third, and fourth wife scenarios a la Raise the Red Lantern (movie and book). This is why Bo Xilai’s first wife, Li Danyu could gossip with New York Times reporters about Bo-Gu family intrigue, while her and Bo’s eldest son Li Wangzhi can continue cattle farming. However, more colloquially, Guagua maybe be one of the implicated (株连) simply because his father has no other weakness and has yet to admit that he was wrong. After all, Gu Kailai did confess; Bo Xilai has made no public apologies or admissions of error.

Speculation du jour, if Princelings benefit from family connections, perhaps they can also be used against each other, especially against those like Bo Xilai, who might not otherwise bend. Bo Xilai will be sentenced in Guizhou, Guiyang. So to speculate even further, weibo has it, that on Monday, Oct 15, Bo Xilai will appear publicly in Guizhou, and inquiring minds want to know: how is this appearance connected to his younger son’s return?

policy by number

In anticipation of the 18th National People’s Congress (and possible trial and sentencing of Bo Xilai and concomitant rise of Wang Yang), I am offering a bit of policy by number — one country, two systems, for example. Chinese policies (at all levels of government) tend to come in easy to remember chunks, which in turn are parsed and memorized in politics class. Of course, in addition to politics classes taught in actual schools, all government organizations also unpack the latest phrase because as the ill-fated reception of Jiang Zemin’s “three represents” demonstrates, its possible to disseminate a catchy catchphrase without the larger public actually figuring out is being said.

A few examples, the author, and a few dates of Chinese policy by number:

One Country, Two Systems (一国两制; Deng Xiaoping, 1984) refers to the decision that Hong Kong would remain administratively separate from the PRC and was used again for the return of Macau, allowing both Special Administrative Regions to continue business operations as they had under colonialism, even as political authority shifted to Beijing. The phras also anticipates the return of Taiwan.

Three Represents (三个代表; Jiang Zemin, 2000) refers to which Chinese interests the Party represents, namely 1. the demand for progressive production capacity; 2. the cutting edge of progressive cultural production, and 3. the basic interests of the vast majority of the People. Unfortunately, even in Chinese the three represents are counter intuitive (1. 始终代表中国先进社会生产力的发展要求;2. 始终代表中国先进文化的前进方向;始终代表中国最广大人民的根本利益) and many thought that the phrase referred to three representatives of Marxism: Marx, Lenin, and Mao. But again, if we were talking about the people’s representatives in the post Mao era, where was Deng Xiaoping’s place in all this?

Four Modernizations (四个现代化;1st plenary session of the 3rd National People’s Congress, December, 1964) refers to the imperatives to modernize industry, agriculture, national defense, and science and technology research (工业现代化、农业现代化、国防现代化、科学技术现代化). The four modernizations where to be accomplished in two, 15 year steps (两步走), or to modernize over the course of 6 five-year plans. Step 1 was to establish a modern industrial base and economic system by 1979; step 2 was to bring China’s industry and economy to the world by 1995. In the 3rd plenary session of the 11th National People’s Congress, Deng Xiaoping memorably reestablished the four modernizations as the guiding policies.

After these first three, Chinese policy by number quickly deteriorates into farce because every level of government and many work units promote their goals through this system. Of note, however, is that Chongqing and Guangdong policy by number soundbites have entered into public discourse, not to mention Hu Jintao’s love of the genre. A few of the more prominent examples:

Three attacks, two establishments (三打两建; Wang Yang, 2011) are the current Guangdong Provincial government’s commitment to attack monopolistic markets, to attack piracy, and to attack corruption and establish systems of social trust and marketplace oversight (打击欺行霸市、打击制假售假、打击商业贿赂;建设社会信用体系、建设市场监管体系).

Five Chongqings (五个重庆; Bo Xilai, 2008) marked the beginning of the Chongqing Model of development, and referred to inhabitable Chongqing, smooth traffic Chongqing, forested Chongqing, safe Chongqing, and healthy Chongqing (宜居重庆、畅通重庆、“森林重庆、平安重庆和健康重庆).

Six Efforts, Six Actualizations (六个着力六个切实; Hu Jintao, 2009) are more ongoing efforts to fight corruption by changing the hearts and minds of Party members by striving to strengthen guiding principles and to actualize the Party for the public good and administering government for the people; striving to improve praxis and to actualize the Party’s praxis of scientific guidance; striving to strengthen responsibility and to actualize the responsibility to follow the Party and the People to be generous; striving to establish correct political positions and to establish objective development [which then has its own numbered list of how tos]; striving to establish a correct view of benefits and to actualize the People’s benefit as being primary, and; striving to strengthen  the Party’s discipline and to actualize Party unity [in four areas] (着力增强宗旨观念,切实做到立党为公,执政为民;着力提高实践能力,切实用党的科学理论指导工作实践;着力强化责任意识,切实履行党和人民赋予的责任;着力树立正确的政绩观,切实按照客观规律谋划发展,要察实情,讲实话,鼓实劲,出实招,办实事,求实效;着力树立正确的利益观,切实把人民利益放在首位;着力增强党的纪律观念,切实维护党的统一,在思想上,行动上,政治上与党中央保持一致,维护党的统一。)

Eight Honors, Eight Shames (八榮八恥; Hu Jintao, 2006) were promoted to cultivate the moral conscious of Party members; patriotism is an honor, while harming the country is a shame; serving the people is an honor, while turning one’s back on the people is a shame; respecting science is an honor, while stupidity is a shame; hard work is an honor, while sloth is a shame; solidarity is an honor, while the pursuit of self benefits is a shame; being trustworthy is an honor, while being opportunistic is a shame; upholding the law is an honor, while breaking the law is a shame; struggle is an honor, while arrogant greed is a shame (坚持以热爱祖国为荣、以危害祖国为耻,以服务人民为荣、以背离人民为耻,以崇尚科学为荣、以愚昧无知为耻,以辛勤劳动为荣、以好逸恶劳为耻,以团结互助为荣、以损人利己为耻,以诚实守信为荣、以见利忘义为耻,以遵纪守法为荣、以违法乱纪为耻,以艰苦奋斗为荣、以骄奢淫逸为耻).

 

deng xiaoping’s inscriptions

Deng Xiaoping was born Deng Xiansheng (邓先圣) on August 22, 1904 in Guang’an, Sichuan (四川广安). To commemorate his birthday, below I have translated his calligraphic inscriptions, which suggest the contours of reform and its social terrain.    

October 1, 1983 for the Beijing Jingshan School: “Education must be oriented to modernization, the world, and the future (教育要面向现代化、面向世界、面向未来)”.

January 1, 1984 for the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone: “Shenzhen’s development and experience proves that the policy decision to establish Special Economic Zones was correct (深圳的发展和经历证明我们建立经济特区的政策是正确的)”.

February 16, 1984 for the then under construction Shanghai Baoshan Steel Factory: “To grasp new technology, one must not only be able to study, but also more able to innovate (掌握新技术,要善于学习,更要善于创新)”.

October 15, 1984 for the first Chinese exhibition to the South Pole: “Use the South Pole to contribute to humanity and world peace (为人类和平利用南极做贡献)”.

February 1986 for the Tianjin Development Zone: “The Development Zone has great hope (开发区大有希望)”.

May 30, 1987 a general inscription: “Unite Marxist truth with the actual situation of the country, so that China will walk its path (把马克思主义的普通真理和本国的实际情况结合起来,走自己的路)”.

May 11, 1988 for an anthology of essays on true standards that was published by Guangming Daily: “Praxis is the only standard for investigating truth (实践是检验真理的唯一标准)”.

October 10, 1989 a general inscription:”Nurture successors to the proletariate revolution who have ideals, morals, culture, and self-restraint (培养有理想、有道德、有文化、有纪律的无产阶级革命事业接班人)”.

September 5, 1990 a general inscription: “Project Hope (希望工程)”.

March 1991 for the 10th Anniversary of Arbor Day: “Green the Motherland, Create Riches for 10,000 Generations (绿化祖国,造福万代)”.

April 23, 1991 for a national meeting: “Develop high technology, realize industrialization (发展高科技,实现产业化)”.

cat theory: contextualizing deng xiaoping’s pragmatism

The historical background to each of the three guiding theories of early reform —  feel theory, cat theory, and don’t debate theory — illuminate the dialectic of political debate and economic reform in and through China more generally and Shenzhen specifically. Importantly, the moral rhetoric of the debate reminds us that the Chinese revolution and its subsequent transmutations has taken place within the ongoing cultural context of feeding the Chinese people.

Previously, I noted that “feel theory (摸论)” had been part of an early reform debate between more conservative Chen Yun and Deng Xiaoping. Today, a brief history of “cat theory (猫论)”, which appeared in an earlier Party scuffle over the same question: should China integrate capitalist means into socialist production? And, if so, how so and to what extent?

The Great Leap Forward(大跃进) aimed to simultaneously accelerate Chinese agricultural and industrial growth through mass mobilization of rural and urban areas. In rural areas, this meant meeting grain quotas and building “backyard furnaces”.  The goal had been to deploy China’s population to compensate for its lack of industrial infrastructure, but the means were coercion and terror and the result was catastrophic famine.

The Great Leap Forward had been scheduled to run from 1958 through 1963, but was discontinued in 1961, when Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and Chen Yun presented an 8 character guidelines to rectify the mistakes of the Great Leap: adjustment, consolidate, enrich, and improve (调整、巩固、充实、提高). The debate over how to organize rural production continued through 1962, when Deng Xiaoping advocated the household responsibility system (包产到户) in contrast to Maoist Communes. On July 2, 1962, Deng Xiaoping responded to the question of whether the household responsibility system was capitalist or communist with a Sichuan proverb, “It doesn’t matter what color the mouse as long as it catches rats (不管黄猫黑猫,只要捉住老鼠就是好猫)”.

18 years later, after seizing power from Hua Guofeng and the Gang of Four, Deng Xiaoping returned to the ideas and inspirations of this earlier debate, reasserting economic pragmatism over and against political ideology. One of the key results, of course, was the establishment of Shenzhen and the three other Special Economic Zones. What also remains clear is that Mao asked the right questions, even if his answers often justified brutal inequality and unfreedom.

Economic decisions are political decisions and thus the question facing political leaders is always already moral: what kind of society do we want to build?