Most are aware that the area we once knew as “Baishizhou” was located north of Shennan Road, comprising four villages–Shangbaishi, Xiabaishi, Tangtou and Xintang. The neighborhood’s name derived from the “Baishizhou” subway station. In turn, the station was named for the historical Baishizhou, a mudflat or sandbank, which was located south of Shennan Road. Historically, our Baishizhou was a continuation of historic settlement patterns, while Baishizhou Village seems to have emerged more recently. Nevertheless, the demolition of our Baishizhou has led to the emergence of a new Baishizhou and this new Baishizhou has a telling (and frankly distressing) general layout. Below, I give a brief overview of the layout and then a brief history of the place name, Baishizhou. And yes, its more speculative than conclusive. Reader be warned.Continue reading
Photos from Baishizhou, Dec 31, 2023. Three notes: 1, the Baishizhou mural has been replaced with a Shahe mural, suggesting that the area’s rebranding is proceeding apace; 2, the covid regulation infrastructure was solid and expensive, even though the area was already being demolished, and; 3, there are still holdouts in the village, most closer to Shennan Road, however, the center area near Jiangnan Department store, where 302 used to be is difficult to reach because mostly razed and inside the current construction site.
Impressions of the walk, below.
no time passing… The melody is Pete Seeger’s, but the context is Shenzhen. Last night I was talking with friends, older friends of many years who have lived in Shenzhen since the early 1990s. We ended up talking about China’s population crisis and how it has been manifest in Shenzhen as the aging of menial laborers, the ongoing removal of affordable housing stock as urban villages are razed, and the flight of young families to cities like Changsha, which are actively trying to attract young people using methods that range from housing policy to social media campaigns to create a hip and friendly city image.
The current situation in Nantou illustrates how these issues come together on the ground. The sanitation crews for the area comprise older people, many who had joined their children in Shenzhen to take care of grandchildren, but once the grandchildren started attending school full-time found themselves both with time on their hands and in need of supplemental income. Many of these crew members are past the age of retirement and ineligible for retirement benefits in the city, making them a vulnerable workforce. In terms of affordable housing, Vanke has upgraded many of the handshake buildings on the two main streets in Nantou, replacing family housing with transitional rentals for singletons. Indeed, last time I went to Nantou, the rates for upgraded housing stock was 5,500 yuan a month, while older housing was still priced between 2,000 to 3,000 yuan, depending on location and size. Moreover, over two years of zero-Covid enforcement means that many mom and pop shops have closed up with generational implications. On the one hand, older entrepreneurs have lost accumulated capital and income. On the other hand, that wealth can no longer be passed on to children who may have been raised in Shenzhen, but do not have city hukou.
So yes, restructuring with a vengeance.Continue reading
One of the results of grid management (see Covid Among Us for details) has been the hardening of the city’s informal boundaries. However, this process has been ongoing for several decades in part via the imposition of a second traffic grid on top of the original traffic grid. In practice, this has meant re-purposing earlier, narrow roads as the internal roads of a cordoned off housing estates 小区 and laying a wider, more extensive network around the newly isolated gated community. In other words, what was initially planned as an open city, was incrementally partitioned and closed off even before grid management came online. In some sense, 2022 zero-Covid protocols merely accelerated a process that was already underway. Once you understand the logic of how the traffic grid was re-inscribed, its possible to see how boundaries were hardened through urban expansion.Continue reading
A few months ago, I published an essay that periodizes the development of urban villages in Shenzhen. It provides a more nuanced context of how we arrived at the public shaming of Shatou during the recent Covid outbreak. It also contextualizes Baishizhou as an important landmark in Shenzhen’s cultural geography, speculating on what the demolition of Baishizhou means and might mean for the city. Published in Made in China, Archaeologies of the Belt and Road Initiative.
I’ve provisionally thought through February and March chez Shenzhen, writing the essay, ‘Covid among Us: Viral Mobilities in Shenzhen’s Moral Geography,’ which has been published online at Made in China. I’ve converted a pdf version of the essay for easy download, below:
Short but very sweet story about a friend’s cat, who is pregs with first litter–hee! Originally, my friend had planned to have the kitten neutered, but. By the time the kitten was old enough to safely undergo the procedure, friend’s building was locked down. And so, she had to wait for the lockdown to lift in order to bring her cat to the vet. Meanwhile, kitty went into heat and made a great escape into the urban village, where apparently the semi-feral community was having a good, good time. About a week later, the cat returned, much to my friend’s relief. My friend had secured her balcony (no more escapes) and settled in to wait out the outbreak. A few weeks later, however, kitty began showing. If all goes well, kitty will give birth next week.
Many years ago (and it was a different world), I interviewed HUANG Weiwen about Shenzhen’s urban planning imaginary. The year was 2016, and there was a general hope that urban villages might come of age and transform the city for the better. Anyway, here’s the article.
Shenzhen’s citywide lockdown has come to an end. Kind of. Last night, there were countdowns to midnight, firecrackers set off at village gates, and then people charging out. I’m not sure where they were going at midnight, in a city that was still primarily closed. But there were thousands celebrating in the streets outside their gates. The expression for this rush is ‘冲鸭,’ which literally translates as ‘charging ducks,’ but translates as ‘go for it.’ In fact, it has been a week of poultry metaphors, as a new phrase on the web is 叮咚鸡 (dingdong ji), which is a pun for the expression ‘wait for further notification’ that ended ever. single. covid announcement. I’m not sure where the expression came from (I’ve seen debates that the original is Cantonese, but no confirmations), however, chickens are running rampant through Shenzhen memes.Continue reading
So, I developed thoughts on what the demolition of Baishizhou had me thinking about Shenzhen’s urban villages. The folks at Made in China, published it as The End of an Era? Two Decades of Shenzhen Urban Villages. Or, you can download a pdf of the paper, below.