nantou ancient city. again.

Sometimes, I walk through older sections of the city, and I try to remember what it felt like the first time I walked there. Or, if I can’t track my emotional memories, I try to remember what this place used to look like. Who was here? What were they doing? Did I take pictures or take notes and if not, where has it all gone?

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where to go for information on shenzhen?

If you are interested in government approved daily updates on what’s happening with the coronavirus in Shenzhen, you could do worse than visiting EYESHENZHEN, which provides translations of city briefings. The site also includes a comprehensive introduction to the city’s mainstream art scene.

voices from coronavirus@sz

A poem from a friend:

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And two other posts: Continue reading

ghosts of the second line

It’s true: nothing’s every really over. I’ve realized why these past few days quarantine restrictions seem so familiar: it’s as if both the SARS precautions and the second line have been reactivated. From SARS: we can freely leave our estate, but only residents can enter. From days of the second line: we can freely move about the city, but residents need to be registered to return, while non-residents must prove they have jobs to return to. At present it seems like some jobs will begin again on the 17th and others are scheduled for the 24th. Perhaps schools will be up and running in March.

Here’s the rub: Management protocols that have limited the movement of people still linger. The gates of Shenzhen University, for example, became operationalized during the student quarantine, and afterwards the guards continued to control access to the campus. Inspections in the metro became operationalized during the Universidade and continue to structure access in and out of the system. It remains to be seen how many of these extreme measures will be incorporated into our post 2019 n-CoV normal.

li wenliang: the heroic intellectual

One of the eight Wuhan whistleblowers, Li Wenliang (李文亮) died on February 7, Chinese time. Most of the posts to my friends’ circle (朋友圈) are memorials to him. In addition to pictures of Li Wenliang wearing a face mask, these posts include images of his police file for creating rumors about a SARS-like virus and screenshots of relevant posts, including international posts in English and German. In addition, essays about his life and the meaning of his death are starting to appear. The more ‘viral’ of these essays emphasize the fact that he was an ordinary person doing his job and that he had the courage to speak truth to power. These posts imply a relationship between Li Wenliang’s status and his courage; only the ordinary, it would seem, are able to tell the truth, affirming both the need for public intellectuals to watchdog the public realm and the public’s right to have intellectual watchdogs looking out for their interests. Continue reading

the wuhan 8: whistle blowers with chinese characteristics

One of the major complaints that I am hearing in Shenzhen is the lack of transparency about information about the new coronavirus; most of the information we are hearing isn’t coming from official sources. Indeed, the first announcement of the Wuhan coronavirus came from eight unnamed, unofficial sources, which announced that a new virus had been discovered. The Wuhan police “handled them according to law” for spreading rumors and reminded the public that “the net isn’t outside the law.”

武汉市announcement

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SZ8X80207//The Myriad Transformations//City on the Fill: Digital City

In “City on the Fill,” I have been tracking the transformation of the Houhai coastline. Houhai means “backwater” and Qianhai means “front water.” These are terms from over 1,700 years ago, referring to the bays behind and in front of the former yamen at Nantou. Both Houhai and Qianhai have been repurposed in Shenzhen 3.0. Houhai has transformed from being a literal backwater at the edges of Shenzhen 1.0 and upscale suburbs in Shenzhen 2.0 to the new location of the city’s upgraded electronics industry.  Qianhai, of course, is the site of the Qianhai-Shekou Free Trade Zone, which has defined development in Shenzhen for about a decade and is itself proposed as the new center of 3.0. (Inquiring minds want to know: will it happen?)

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about urban villages…

On May 26, I participated in a municipal CPPCC event with the intimate title 《城中村——那些事儿》. The event name might be translated as “What’s happening in our urban villages?” PCC, of course, stands for Political Consultative Conference (政协), which has an advisory role to the government. Continue reading

urban flesh and bones: huaqiangbei

On Saturday April 27, Handshake 302 led fifteen curious guests on a full-day discovery of Huaqiangbei from perspective of the historic Shangbu Industrial Park. The organization of the tour emphasized the intimate stories behind the emergence of Huaqiangbei as a global landmark. After all, Huaqiangbei did not emerge as fully formed nexus in a global network of technological innovation, but rather formed in the ongoing evolution of Shenzhen’s cultural geography. Continue reading

SZ8X802//The_Myriad_Transformations//City on the Fill

The next installment in the Myriad Transformations, “City on the Fill” is a series of riffs on land reclamation, both as an important feature of Shenzhen’s cultural ecology and as a metaphor for the replacement of southern Chinese culture with northern norms. 

2002

This image of the Shenzhen Bay coastline was taken behind the south gate of Shenzhen University in 2002. Squatters occupied the landfill and planted small vegetable gardens and raised chickens near their houses. Most worked in the informal economy, sorting garbage, working on nearby construction sites, and cultivating the oyster and fish farms that would be shut down in 2006. Today, the water  has been reclaimed and is part of the Hi-Tech corridor that connects the Tencent Headquarters to University town via Shenzhen University, branch campuses of Hong Kong universities, and office buildings of Shenzhen and China’s top hi-tech companies. Indeed, this area was the site of the Shenzhen Maker Faire, 2015. The building under construction in the background is the Yangri Wanpan (洋日湾畔)estates, next to the Coastal City Shopping Mall complex. However, what strikes me more than the “that was then feeling” of a landscape transformed is the squatters’ clothing; even in 2002, when Shenzhen was still a manufacturing city, squatters would have difficulty finding jobs in the formal economy where appearance was part of gaining employment.

2015

This is the Hi-Tech area, circa 2015. The white buildings in the left of the photograph comprise the Yangri Wanpan housing estates, which were under construction (and considered seafront property) in 2002. In 2015, the Hi-Tech area was the site of the Shenzhen Maker Faire, shown in the Chaihuo clip, below:

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