an urban village by any other name…

This week Kaiqin, Wu Dan and I have been in Xiamen for a Tiffany glass DIY workshop. The workshop was held in a gated housing estate near the tourist docks for going to Gulangyu. As we couldn’t afford to stay in nearby hotels, we found a small (40 sq meters including open area) b&b (民宿) in Shapowei (沙坡尾), which any quick google will tell you is unlike any other neighborhood in the city. It’s hip, it’s arty, and it lives like an urban village.

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shenzhen and xiamen are special administrative regions!?

Word on the WeChat circle and as yet unconfirmed, slipping the information in under the holiday radar: Shenzhen and Xiamen may have been elevated to the status of provincial ranked Special Administrative Regions (特别行政区) and not directly administered cites (直辖市) as many have been speculating. Hong Kong and Macao are SARs; Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing are directly administered cities.

It’s true, because of the establishment of the Shenzhen and Xiamen Free Commerce Zones, where there will be different legal systems, if Shenzhen and Xiamen are SARs then they are higher-ranking cities than Beijing!

As part of its elevation, Dongguan’s Chang’an, Qingxi, and Fenggang Districts, Huizhou’s Huiyang District, and Huizhou’s section Daya Bay will be redistricted to Shenzhen.

The Guangdong Provincial Vice Secretary, Ma Xingrui will be promoted to be the first General Secretary of the Shenzhen SAR.

And just like that: good bye special economic zone, hello special administrative region. Let me know if you see an official announcement. In addition to WeChat notes, I’ve seen blog posts. The fact that the news is circulating is, like wow, NEWS.

Update: not news, apparently. Over the Chinese New Year, the speculation was that Shenzhen and Xiamen would become directly administered cities. In fact, just what’s going to happen is still unknown…

特 – a manifesto against special privileges

More from 乌有之乡, this time an essay on “Why is creating SEZs a logical fraud? (为什么说搞“经济特区”是一个“逻辑骗局”?)” And yes, these thoughts have been expressed before, but they really do bear repeating. And then, it’s worth applying the analysis to other, non-Chinese spheres where legal exceptionalism remains the primary form of creating competitive advantage. As the anonymous author argues, governments have made it their business to help multinationals squeeze even more out of workers.

Why is Creating SEZs a Logical Fraud?

Key point: The original purpose and core intention of creating “Special Economic Zones (SEZs)” was to explore possible paths for reforming and opening China. However, the problem appeared with the character “special (特)”. If what is being created is a “special” zone, logically speaking it isn’t relevant to ordinary life. In other words, the paths that are suitable for a “special” zone are “special paths”, and not the ordinary path of reforming and opening China.

[translation note: 法律特权 literally translates as legal privilege, however, it functions analogously to the American English concept of legal exceptions — the rules don’t apply to me — and where appropriate that is how I have translated it. In most places, however, I’ve tried to stick to “privilege”.] Continue reading

Bill Aichison in and around Xiamen

Friend Bill Aichison is preparing “The Customer is Always Wrong,” a performance piece based on his exploration of things Chinese in Xiamen. Teaser video and project blog worth a look.