handshake 302: WeChat connections

Handshake 302 has been we-chatting in Chinese for half a year now. We are now starting to offer updates in English as well. If you scan our barcode (above), you will receive updates in English and Chinese about one of Shenzhen’s most vibrant public arts projects. The updates also include information about upcoming events and instructions about how to join our events. Welcome to the conversation!

handshake with the future

opens on Sunday and students from Guangdong Xin’an Polytechnic are hard at work!

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idiots we be…

…and yes “we” is you white man. I began this morning grappling with the problem of statistical representation and sustainable imaginaries in the Pearl River Delta, which has roughly the same GDP as Switzerland spread over an area that is only 1.3 times greater than Switzerland. So yes, I live in an important region of the global economy. But here’s the rub: the PRD has a population that is almost 8 times that of Switzerland. This means that sustainable development in the PRD entails grappling with issues at a scale much greater and with fewer resources per person than in Switzerland.  Continue reading

pointless inc at 302!

On Friday, May 7, the performance artist 坚果兄弟 (nut brothers) spoke at Handshake 302 about his recent piece, “30 Occupations”. 坚果兄弟 specializes in extended performances of absurd situations. He especially enjoys (and yes, the word is “enjoys”) creating pieces that blur the boundaries between art and everyday and thus highlight the delicate balance required to maintain plausible fictions such as “work is meaningful” or “art is special”. Thus, he tends to work with none artists in everyday spaces, where the “audience” that gathers may or may not realize it is a performance piece. Continue reading

shekou redux

For those following the shifts in Guangdong structure, you noticed that yesterday Shekou, along with Qianhai, Nansha, and a bit of Zhuhai was designated a self-governing trade zone (自贸区). Inquiring minds want to know: what does that mean? Speculation abounds and adjustments are coming, but there seem to be two key points. Continue reading

2013 gaokao update

I find the gaokao process daunting: so many rounds of admissions, so many different variables — including hometown and quota requirements — to consider, so many practice tests and, in the end, so few points difference between students.

That said, the gaokao season began with registration (Dec 1-10, 2012), testing to estimate admission baselines, and has just completed mock exams (April 2-20). The mock exams give students, parents, and teachers an estimate of likely test scores, which can be compared to historic results in order to decide on which program to apply. We have entered the final phase of test preparation, during which time students take tests and refine their baseline estimates. On June 7 and 8. 36,633 students will sit for the exams in Shenzhen, unless, of course they have an abnormal pre-exam medical check-up. Students with physical ailments will be permited to take make-up exams on June 17-18.

xi jinping rocks shenzhen

On his first trip out of Beijing, Xi Jinping visited Shenzhen and none of the streets or areas were cordoned off. And he walked the unguarded walk with Wang Yang, proponent of ongoing neoliberal reforms (transparency and ending corruption). Weibo went wild. As the two toured, Shenzhen residents swarmed taking pictures and uploading them to weibo, taking the trip as a sign that Guangdong may be the first Chinese provence to actually take on corruption.

“Anti-corruption” is, of course, the new content of political “reform”. Hence Xi Jinping’s explicit and repeated references to Deng Xiaoping. The trip itself inscribed the cartography of neoliberal reforms that are glossed as the Shenzhen Model, visiting the Qianhai Cooperation Zone and Tengxun’s corporate headquarters — both symbolize Shenzhen’s role emergence as a leader in new forms of international investment and high technology. In addition, Xi Jinping’s southern tour not only celebrated the 20th anniversary of Deng’s 1992 southern tour, but also included a visit to Luohu’s Yumin Village, the village that became famous during Deng’s 1984 tour. And in case anyone missed the point — Deng Xiaoping reformed Maoism, Xi Jinping will reform corrupt practices — Xi Jinping laid a wreath of flowers at Deng’s statue in Lianhua Park.

It is in this context that “no cordons” between the Party Secretary and the Shenzhen People resonated so strongly. One of my friends commented on the weibo posts saying, “If the biggest (老大) is willing to go out unprotected, the rest of them won’t dare to set up cordons!”

Another replied, “Well Comrade Jiang keeps himself safe.”

“Bah,” was the immediate reply, “He’s an old man, so we’ll give him face. That’s just a question of respect.”

This brief conversation hints at the cultural context of anti-corruption / political reform in China. Both friends were correct. On the face of it, Xi Jinping and new best friend Wang Yang are anti-corruption. Yet, they confront an entrenched power structure that doesn’t retire. All this conjecture matters because many of us are hopeful that Guangdong will be the first province to require corporations and public officials to release financial records to public scrutiny. This is being called “the clean government storm (廉政风暴)”, another reference to the Shekou Model, the Shekou Storm of 1988, when Yuan Geng protected students from investigation by visiting Beijing officials.