shen kong: the different faces of state capitalism

A recent article from the Epoch Times asserts that Shenzhen has surpassed Hong Kong in competitiveness because of the way Beijing has intervened in the economies of the two cities. Indeed, the establishment of the Qianhai Free Trade Zone speaks to the continued transfer of international economic functions from Hong Kong to Shenzhen through the deployment of “special” policies. This is, in fact, a solution to the one country-two systems policy that–for years–many foreign commentators ignored, when it was thought would Shenzhen become more like Hong Kong? Well, it has. And inquiring minds want to know: cui bono?

From the Epoch Times article: For the first time in a decade, Hong Kong no longer tops the list of competitive cities in China, and its due to the stifling hand of the Chinese regime, commentators note.

According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ recently released Blue Book on Urban Competitiveness—a survey of 294 China cities, Taiwan included—Hong Kong now ranks number two, falling behind its neighbor just across the border in mainland China, the metropolis Shenzhen.

The survey report claims Shenzhen topped Hong Kong, a bustling international financial hub and former British colony, because the mainland city better backed innovation—in 2014, Shenzhen government spent 4.05 percent of its gross domestic production supporting its innovation and technology sector compared to Hong Kong’s 0.73 percent.

The report also said Hong Kong’s standing was affected by last year’s student-led Occupy protests. From the end of September to mid December, hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers held three areas of the city to protest a restrictive Beijing diktat on political reform in Hong Kong (more).

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

Interview | Zoe Svendsen | World Factory | Young Vic

I’m curious about how the play “World Factory” works. One review said the show can turn a liberal hipster into a capitalist tyrant in one evening–and I think it was a compliment?! The point, of course, is one that I frequently hear; it you were a leader you’d probably make those decisions, too.

Interview | Zoe Svendsen | World Factory | Young Vic — LondonCalling.com.

of migrants and immigrants, shenzheners and locals: some definitions

Talking about migrant workers in China (and throughout the world’s booming mega-cities) usually means “rural to urban migration”. However, this is not the case in Shenzhen, where “urban to urban immigration” has been as fundamental to the city’s success and growth. Indeed, the diversity of Shenzhen’s migrant population complicates easy understanding of what it means to be a Shenzhener, let alone academic debates about urban belonging and ideologies of exclusion. Continue reading

drone-fare

When I first saw the above advertisement for DJI, one of the world’s leading producers of drones, I balked. It seemed to me to be a picture that celebrated spying on the private and unaccessible mansions of the all-too-rich. So, given the unreliability of my American gut reactions in China, I asked the young women standing next to me, “What do you see in that advertisement?” She responded, “a pretty landscape.” I was like, “What about the dock? The big mansion? The coastline that resembles Newport’s?” She looked at the advert again, nodded, and then tentatively added, “We see things differently because of cultural difference.” Continue reading

horton hears a migrant worker

In order to grasp the moralities and consequences of social non-existence, and incidentally to demonstrate that non-existence partially registered in American understandings of its Cold War conundrums, especially our self-envisioned role in Asia, one could do worse than a close reading of Horton Hears a Who, which was published in 1954, roughly a decade after Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel had transitioned from drawing editorial cartoons to writing politically charged children’s books. Continue reading

ideal subject positions (by the numbers)

The current stock market frenzy has people dreaming about more than free lunches. The following adverts are from Money Daddy (钱爸爸), an online trading / investment platform based in Shenzhen. Of note? In addition to the pyramid scheme promises of rapid wealth, the site address plays with both “rich daddy, poor daddy” ideology and Cantonese numerology, where the number 8 is a homophone for the character for father and can also represents the character for “get rich”.

Translations of Money Daddy advertisements show “ideal” middle class Shenzheners enjoying their high returns. The underlying anxiety point is actually quite simple: if you’re earning an honest living in any of these jobs (including an ordinary bureaucrat), you’re not earning enough for carefree spending. And carefree spending is, of course, the site where the self is being constructed as “macho”, “successful”, “loving”, “sexy”, and “independent”, respectively. Continue reading