comrade xiaoping in shenzhen

The architect of Reform and Opening Up, Deng Xiaoping died on February 19, 1997, 25 years ago. It was dank and rainy week. Shenzhen was still very much a manufacturing town, still very much under construction, and that day, very much taken by surprise. After all, commonsense du jour held that Shenzhen’s patron would hold on at least another three and a half months until midnight June 30, when he and troops from the People’s Liberation Army would march from Shenzhen across the Sino-British border into Hong Kong, signaling the formal transfer of the British colony back to China. But he didn’t make it. Instead, Shenzhen along with the rest of the country went into mourning. All Chinese television stations broadcast the 12-episode documentary, Deng Xiaoping, only interrupting archival footage and recorded memories to insert national, provincial and municipal news reports about how China, Guangdong and Shenzhen would continue the hard and necessary work of reforming and opening the county, province and city in his honor.

Continue reading

dream of a red china

On November 29, 2012, in one of his first appearances as the General Party Secretary of the People’s Republic, Xi Jinping defined “China’s Dream”, saying, “everyone is debating what China’s Dream is. I think that since the modern era, the greatest dream of the Chinese nation has been the renaissance of the Chinese people (大家都在讨论中国梦。我认为,实现中华民族伟大复兴,就是中华民族以来最伟大的梦想。).”

In support of Xi Jinping’s exhortation, the walls surrounding Shenzhen’s construction sites have been covered in posters that define this dream in terms of Chinese tradition. Visually, this is achieved through folk paintings of children learning to use a calligraphy brush or symbols of new year’s prosperity. However, given that folk nationalism was such an important part of early Maoism, these posters also reference the joys of labor and strengthening the country.

Shenzhen’s take on the campaign interests me because the posters reference Maoism indirectly through a visual rhetoric that reiterates 1950s folk nationalism. Traditional activities and visual styles further evoke a nostalgia for the good old days. Moreover, these posters explicitly celebrate Confucianism. All this to say, the current Shenzhen interpretation of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream takes the form of nostalgia for a past that ever happened creates a Chinese identity that is explicitly cultural, rather that political.

I’m not sure if Shenzhen’s take on China’s Dream is the same as in other cities. A quick google of 中国梦, for example, brings up illustrations that are more scientific and futuristic that these colorful posters. Thus, there is something determinedly anti-socialist realism in the Shenzhen campaign, which might lead us to think that Shenzhen’s leaders are ambivalent about the Party. Certainly, it leaves me wondering just how far the current regime will distance itself from its former incarnations in order to maintain hegemony without sharing power.

Examples of these posters, below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).


population and hukou update, 2012

The decision to further loosen hukou requirements is once again front page news in Shenzhen (南方都市报). Interestingly, however, the municipal hukou system is only one reform target. Yesterday, the Municipality released its 2012 Reform Targets, which like hukou reform seem to be about rationalizing public administration, and include centralizing the City’s pension, philanthropy, credit, and prison systems. Nevertheless, hukou reform captured the headlines. Why?

Simple answer: Despite the fact that the children of both early migrants and Baoan locals, as well as the children of long-term residents now claim Shenzhen identity, nevertheless, the majority of the population does not have a legal claim to the Municipality, let alone an emotional sense of belonging. Indeed, the City’s statistics noticeably do not mention uncounted members of the floating population.

According to recent statistics, Shenzhen’s official population is now 15.1 million, of whom only 2.3 million have Shenzhen hukou. The Municipality’s other 12.8 million are in various states of limbo, which range from those who have overstayed a temporary residence permit through workers who have enough points to apply for a hukou to graduate students at Shenzhen’s University Town, who will be given hukou along with their diploma.

Nevertheless, even if we don’t know how many inhabitants actually identify themselves as Shenzheners, we do know that the Municipality is vigorously promoting the slogan, “If you come, you’re a Shenzhener”. To give a sense of how the Municipality strains to graft a sense of place onto deterritorialized bodies, I offer a loose translation of a recent bit of musical propaganda, the song, “If you come, you’re a Shenzhener (来了就是深圳人)” sung by Xu Qianya.

If You Come You’re a Shenzhener

(chorus) Wherever you’re from, you’ll hear your hometown language; It’s hard to distinguish between elsewhere and hometown; Wherever you’re from, this city opens its doors to you; If you come, you’re a Shenzhener; The earth has dreams to be harvested; The heart expands; Shennan Road is like a production line; Producing Spring after Spring; Clouds search for green mountains, mountains search for clouds; People seek opportunities, opportunities seek people; Heroes populate this world; You and I have the same heart; repeat chorus

Rap: There’s an immigrant town; Inhabited by youth and their dreams; Our latitute is 22 degrees north; Here a handshake means something; Here smiles last a little longer; Every day is young; The heart expands; Shennan Road is like a production line; Producing Spring after Spring; Clouds search for green mountains, mountains search for clouds; People seek opportunities, opportunities seek people; Heroes populate this world; You and I have the same heart; repeat chorus ad nauseum.


不论你从哪里来 都能听到乡音,异乡和故乡很难分,不论你从哪里来 这座城敞开门,来了就是深圳人,土壤有梦多收获,胸襟开放多风云,深南路像一条流水线,流过青春又青春,云找青山山找云,人找机缘缘找人,天地间苍茫千万里,你我相知一颗心,不论你从哪里来 都能听到乡音,异乡和故乡很难分, 不论你从哪里来 这座城敞开门,来了就是深圳人

RAP:有一座移民之城,住满着青春和梦,这里刮着北纬22度季候风,这里的握手比较有力,这里的微笑比较持久,这里的每天都年轻,土壤有梦多收获,胸襟开放多风云,深南路像一条流水线,流过青春又青春,云找青山山找云,人找机缘缘找人,天地间苍茫千万里,你我相知一颗心,不论你从哪里来 都能听到乡音,异乡和故乡很难分,不论你从哪里来 这座城敞开门,来了就是深圳人 (Repeat)