Privatizing China: Socialism from Afar
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Everyday life in China is increasingly shaped by a novel mix of neoliberal and socialist elements, of individual choices and state objectives. This combination of self-determination and socialism from afar has incited profound changes in the ways individuals think and act in different spheres of society. Covering a vast range of daily life―from homeowner organizations and the users of Internet cafes to self-directed professionals and informed consumers―the essays in Privatizing China create a compelling picture of the burgeoning awareness of self-governing within the postsocialist context.
The introduction by Aihwa Ong and Li Zhang presents assemblage as a concept for studying China as a unique postsocialist society created through interactions with global forms. The authors conduct their ethnographic fieldwork in a spectrum of domains―family, community, real estate, business, taxation, politics, labor, health, professions, religion, and consumption―that are infiltrated by new techniques of the self and yet also regulated by broader socialist norms. Privatizing China gives readers a grounded, fine-grained intimacy with the variety and complexity of everyday conduct in China's turbulent transformation.
wedding of neoliberal “ways of doing things” with socialist norms of building the nation. At the same time, such an approach offers a potentially useful analytical stance for discussions of private social worlds and self-care in contemporary China. 11. Self-fashioning Shanghainese Dancing across Spheres of Value Aihwa Ong I am a dance girl and I am a [Communist] party member. I don’t know if I can be counted as a successful Web cam dance girl. But I’m sure that looking around the world, if I
become radically commercialized, downsized politics now runs through conceptions of the stylized person as a form of commodity. New practices of market-savvy personhood are not independent of the state but are an expression of self-will that reﬂects a socialist transformation of the neoliberal technique of “governing at a distance.”6 Because new modes of being and acting depend on building up individual capacities, the exercise of individual powers is inseparable from exercising power over
developers who did not otherwise have access to the premium land parcels. An informal network of land brokers has emerged to facilitate the circulation of landownership in many cities. Among the successful brokers are former staff members from landowning state units and ofﬁcials with connections to relevant government agencies.21 The enterprising and resource-rich socialist land masters have further expanded their land reserves by consolidating parcels belonging to many different work units under
urban housing market. As the general period for land use rights is from forty to seventy years, and Chinese laws do not specify concrete measures for implementing lease renewals, it is hard for governments to beneﬁt from future increases in land or property value once the land use rights are sold. Lacking sufﬁcient long-term taxation revenues from property owners and land users, local governments put more emphasis on extracting one-time payments from urban housing developers and dealers, which
and agencies to bring about what he calls a people-to-people connection. The results were not modest. The ﬁrst time he brought Mee Hang to the United States, in 1992, she had an entourage of fourteen, and it cost $100,000, money that was raised from donations garnered through Hmong voluntary agencies and individual contributions. Twenty thousand tickets were sold for the performance that Mee Hang gave in a public park. She visited several more times, in 1993, 1995, and 1996, each time at great