Continuities of State and Capital in 21st Century China

At the beginning of the 2009 school year, the Chinese newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily conducted a series of interviews with primary school students in Guangzhou for a televised report. From among the respondents, the most provocative answer undoubtedly came from a 6-year-old girl who when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up explained in a very sincere tone that her dream was “to become a corrupt official (tanguan)” because “they receive a lot of gifts.”1 The girl had most likely heard the term tanguan used in the news, but she obviously showed no understanding of the profoundly negative connotations associated with it. For her it was simply an attractive occupation, like a firefighter or an astronaut. When the video of her interview began circulating around the online community of China observers responses to it ranged from moral outrage at the girl’s educators to humor at how candid children can be, though obviously her remark says more about the state of social mobility in China than anything about her individually. Strictly speaking, it primarily shows how tanguan is by now a household word in China, itself telling. It might also be indicative of a broader feature of contemporary Chinese society: that bureaucratic privilege has not diminished throughout the decades-long process of economic liberalization in China. It could further be suggested that this girl’s response offers a guileless commentary on how capital and the state relate in the 21st century.



About D C

Robot anarchist View all posts by D C

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