identity card politics

So today a return to a theme near and dear to my heart: satirical text messages, or as we have now stopped texting and use WeChat, satirical blog posts that are forwarded via WeChat. This time, the Op-Ed piece, “We were never Chinese citizens, just Chinese people who live on the Mainland (原来我们都不是中国国民!只是居住在大陆的中国人!) has caught my attention. Inquiring minds want to know, what’s up with that? Continue reading

the view from the top, circa 1997

The 69th floor observatory of the Diwang Building remains an important tourist destination, albeit something of a time capsule.

The Diwang building was completed in time to celebrate the Return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. The 69th floor observatory includes a museum that commemorates Shenzhen’s history from 1980 through 1997, a kitchy “Lan Kwai Fang” bar street, and observation maps that date from 1997. The key exhibit is a wax figure installation of Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher’s iconic 1984 meeting. The installation symbolizes the ideological function of Shenzhen circa 1997 — the buffer zone between Beijing and Hong Kong, which enabled the PRC to push forward its “one country, two systems” policy.

The juxtaposition of Shenzhen then and now resonates precisely because the interior design of the museum hasn’t changed since 1997. In fact, all one has to do is look at one of the maps and compare it to the view from the observation platform to remember that in 1997 Diwang precipitated the city’s glass and steel makeover. Notably absent from the 1997 maps — the civic center, the kk 100 building, and the Binhai Expressway and Northern Loop. Obviously present in the 1997 maps — the extent to which the construction of border town urban villages such as Caiwuwei, Dengba, and Hubei had shaped urban possibility in Shenzhen . Moreover, in the 1997 images, Buji and the second line seem distant, far far away from the booming border region. Nevertheless, villages still show up in the images below — the relatively dark patches are urban villages, including the remains of Caiwuwei after the construction of the KK 100.

Visiting the museum and observatory costs 80 rmb a ticket and if memory serves (because sometimes it doesn’t), fifteen years ago the price of admission was 80 rmb.

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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).

 

The price of a One Country, Two Systems cup of coffee

Today, I went to buy a cup of coffee in a Hong Kong Starbucks. I tried to use a Shekou Starbucks “buy one get one free coupon”, which is valid in any Starbucks throughout Guangdong and Fujian. Nevertheless, the HK Starbucks did not accept my coupon because Shekou is in neidi (the interior). So I asked if Hong Kong was part of Guangdong — after all, the SAR speaks Cantonese and is justifiably proud of its Cantonese cuisine. The barista politely asked for my understanding because with respect to these kind of campaigns, Hong Kong is different from neidi and thus not part of Guangdong. However, when I asked if I could pay for my coffee using Chinese yuan, the answer was not only yes, but also that change would be given in Hong Kong dollars based on a one to one exchange rate. Thus, not only would I loose the exchange rate for the price of the coffee, but would be literally short-changed in the transaction.

Now, those of us who live in the Pearl River Delta are no doubt aware of the One Country, Two Systems policy, which in theory is designed to give Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan (at some imagined future date) a certain level of autonomy under a Mainland (Party) government. In practice, however, One Country, Two Systems is and integrated economic system, in which territorial identities create another site of unequal exchange. The most obvious example has been wage differentials between neidi and HK, Macau, and Taiwan. However, as the price of cup of coffee shows, at the level of everyday consumer consumption, these differentials also come into play because every small shop in the Delta has the potential to become a money changer.

In a related update to an earlier post on transferring Chinese yuan into accounts outside the country, a friend told me that the easiest way to get money out of China by way of Macau was to purchase chips in neidi and carry them across the border, play a while, and then exchange remaining chips for Hong Kong dollars.