Tag Archives: China

Wukan! Wukan!

Reports from Wukan, Guangdong, the Chinese village in revolt against local government, have generated more shocked gasps from the Anglophone media than in-depth reporting, resulting in a general paucity of information, let alone insightful analysis. But thanks to a 52-minute homemade video about the protest and one other report online at iSun Affairs we’re getting a little more detail. The following is a rudimentary translation of the timeline of events provided at the iSun report. I welcome any advice on the translation:

1993: Wukan Hong Kong Industrial Development Co., Ltd. is established; The Wukan government begins selling village land.

April 3rd, 2009: A leaflet appears in Wukan village entitled, “A letter to fellow townsfolk of Wukan — We’re not ‘Dead Village Slaves.'” More village land is sold, the village government alters the elections as the majority of the villagers discuss the issue of the leaflet.

April 3rd, 2009: More than 20 young people from Wukan travel to petition Guangdong provincial government leaders, soon arriving in Guangzhou’s Zhongshan Park to plan the formation of the “Wukan Hotblooded Youth Group.” The group members go on to petition eleven provincial, city, county-level city, and small-town governments.

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May Fourth and the Pivot of Chinese Socialism

This essay analyzes the reception of communalism in China in the context of the powerful currents that contributed to and shaped it: the New Village Movement, anarchism, and Communism. Following on the heels of the fall of the Qing dynasty and the end of World War I, the May Fourth period was a time when China appeared threatened by imperialism from without and social war caused by the inequalities and instabilities of modernization from within. The former also shaped the latter, as clearly exemplified in the Boxer Uprising. However, for many Chinese intellectuals the solution to their national problems was not simply a matter of rejecting the globalizing world or of opposing it with force as the Boxers had done; rather, they sought to transform themselves into a society in consonance with modernity by studying foreign ideas. These ranged from Western science and democracy to religion and philosophy. Below is an investigation into communal living in the May Fourth period, a specific method of social transformation that synthesized and adapted elements from the New Village Movement, anarchism, and humanism. As a response to geopolitical and transnational intellectual movements, this communalism is particular to the May Fourth period in China. It marks the May Fourth period as a time when the possibilities for political action were not limited by the party form or by ideology.


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.


我们家 : Desiree Social Center : A liberated space in Wuhan

The following originally appeared in Black Rim #1

Last December I had the chance to travel to Wuhan with some other members of the Beijing Anarchist Study Group. Wuhan, which is known as the birthplace of Chinese punk, spawned a small network of anarcho-leaning youths with a strong desire for autonomy and free expression. This is the same scene that produced the magazine Chaos, which is probably the first anarchist publication to come out of mainland China in fifty years. Chaos carried articles on the situationists, green anarchy, and ran translations of Kropotkin, all alongside reports from domestic and international punk scenes. Though now defunct, it’s final issue was a complete translation of Crimethinc’s Fighting for our Lives. It ambitiously tackled political issues, which is all the more impressive considering the repressive national context. The fact that the magazine wasn’t suppressed (though it was printed illegally) is a sign of a thawing of anarchism in China, which has laid dormant since the Communist takeover.



Hong Kong Public Space Wars: Colonial Legacies and Legal Consequences

The following originally appeared in Black Rim #1

At first glance, it probably strikes one as odd that Hong Kong’s anarchists rallied to defend the Star Ferry Terminal and Queen’s Piers. What is there worth defending about two colonial landmarks, one of which is even dedicated to royalty? On closer inspection, however, we see that these two points of conflict were part of a working class community protecting itself against encroaching privatization. It’s not that anyone had much nostalgia for the days of their European rulers, but the piers were defended because the buildings represented some of the last unenclosed public spaces in the city.


A Broad Time-line of Anarchism in May Fourth Era China: 1908-1930

An unpolished chronological guide to the boom and bust years of the historical anarchist movement in China.