Of Shahe and OCT
maryannodonnell

tangtou-1
Originally uploaded by maryannodonnell
Baishizhou has the distinction of being Shenzhen's "city that isn't a city, village that isn't a village (城不城,村不村)."

The first stop (bus or subway) after Windows of the World themepark, Baishizhou has come to refer to a 7.5 sq km swath of handshake buildings that was originally part of the "Shahe Overseas Farm (沙河华侨农场)". This highly congested and irregularly built area is also the first stop for many new migrants to Shenzhen because of its central location, convenience, and lowest of the low priced housing.

Inquiring minds ask, "How did (one of) Shenzhen's most beautifully landscaped high end residential, tourist and arts area (OCT) end up next to what is acknowledged to be one of the city's largest slums?"

Simple answer: historically OCT and Shahe were part of the Shahe Overseas Farm, which was established in 1959. A farm was a collective agrarian work unit in which the agricultural workers received a salary and had housing, but not landuse rights. Displaced villagers from the 1959 typhoon were relocated here as were Overseas Chinese displaced by political turmoil in other parts of Southeast Asia.

In 1985 this history becomes complex, even by Shenzhen standards because although Shahe farmers were culturally and socially peasants, legally they did not have the full status of peasant and were therefore did not have full landuse rights.

In 1985, the 12.5 sq km Shahe farm was divided into the Overseas City conglomorate (华侨城集团 - 5 sq kms) and Shahe (7.5 sq kms, an area that continued to be a "farm" that was neither city, nor village, but rather a strange unit of five villages (Baishizhou, Xin Tang, Tangtou, Upper and Lower Baishi). Shahe residents could not collectively build industrial areas (as in other Shenzhen villages) because as members of a farm, they did not have landuse rights. However, as agricultural workers, they did have housing rights.

The historic rest is more a function of the laws of inequality that structured the difference between rural and urban life under Mao. The people who developed OCT were urban, educated, and well connected within the national government. They used their resources to design and grow one of the most impressive and wealthiest of the Shenzhen experiments. It was not, however, a work unit that was designed to incorporate Shahe residents except as labor and food producers.

In contrast, Shahe people had neither centralized leadership, nor any land on which to create a non-agricultural livelihood. Moreover, as cultural and social Baishizhou has the distinction of being Shenzhen's "city that isn't a city, village that isn't a village (城不城,村不村)."

The first stop (bus or subway) after Windows of the World themepark, Baishizhou has come to refer to a 7.5 sq km sprawl of handshake buildings that was originally part of the "Shahe Overseas Farm (沙河华侨农场)". This highly congested and irregularly built area is also the first stop for many new migrants to Shenzhen because of its central location, convenience, and lowest of the low priced housing.

Inquiring minds ask, "How did (one of) Shenzhen's most beautifully landscaped high end residential, tourist and arts area (OCT) end up next to what is acknowledged to be one of the city's largest slums?"

Simple answer: historically OCT and Shahe were part of the Shahe Overseas Farm, which was established in 1959. A farm was a collective agrarian work unit in which the agricultural workers received a salary and had housing, but not landuse rights. Displaced villagers from the 1959 typhoon were relocated here as were Overseas Chinese displaced by political turmoil in other parts of Southeast Asia.

In 1985 this history becomes complex, even by Shenzhen standards because although Shahe farmers were culturally and socially peasants, legally they did not have the full status of peasant and were therefore did not have full landuse rights.

In 1985, the 12.5 sq km Shahe farm was divided into the Overseas City conglomorate (华侨城集团 - 5 sq kms) and Shahe (7.5 sq kms, an area that continued to be a "farm" that was neither city, nor village, but rather a strange unit of five villages (Baishizhou, Xin Tang, Tangtou, Upper and Lower Baishi). Shahe residents could not collectively build industrial areas (as in other Shenzhen villages) because as members of a farm, they did not have landuse rights. However, as agricultural workers, they did have housing rights.

The historic rest is more a function of the laws of inequality that structured the difference between rural and urban life under Mao. The people who developed OCT were urban, educated, and well connected within the national government. They used their resources to design and grow one of the most impressive and wealthiest of the Shenzhen experiments. It was not, however, a work unit that was designed to incorporate Shahe residents except as labor and food producers.

In contrast, Shahe people had neither centralized leadership, nor any land on which to create a non-agricultural livelihood. Moreover, as cultural and social peasants, most had neither the education nor resources to do more than build lowrise buildings that continue to be the basis of their income. Last year (2009), Shahe finally incorporated. However, given that all they have is the landuse rights for their individual housing, it remains to be seen what will be made of this tangled mess. I suspect that the next flush of income will come from "rural urbanization" in which landuse rights will transfer from residents to the city in exchange for a negotiated settlement, which will include architectural and environmental upgrades.

Ironically, it has been the Shahe/OCT model of rural urbanization that has been most actively pursued outside of Shenzhen under the rubric of "learn from Shenzhen". This is the model in which farmers are deprived of all landuse rights except housing and the actual resources for development are in the hands of urban educated officials and entrepreneurs. In contrast, the more pure (for definite lack of a better word) Shenzhen model is one in which peasants also had landuse rights for livelihood and grow into hereditary stockholding corporations with factories, real estate holdings, and collective cultural holdings (ancestral halls, stages, and recently museums).

To visit Shahe go to a Baishizhou bus or subway stop. If you head north, you'll meander into Xintang, Tangtou, and Upper and Lower Baishi. Baishizhou is located south, once upon a time on Shenzhen Bay. Shahe is variously segregated from OCT by walls, barbed wire, and greenspace.

shenzhen smog 2010.1.28
maryannodonnell

several hours ago, a heavy smog descended on shenzhen. this smog irritates my throat and eyes, but i can't identify a smell.


the ongoing diminishing of shenzhen's air-quality has been a persistent theme in this blog. i can honestly say today is the worst day i've seen here. nevertheless, at work, most talked about the smog as if it were excessive, but "normal" as in "within expectations". as i walked home, children were playing in huanggang park, people were chatting, and the traffic moved as usual.


does anyone else know what has / is happening? i tried surfing in chinese but haven't seen anything. although i did come across a blog entry that classified shenzhen's air quality as "relatively bad" and suggested that people limit their outdoor activities!



futures - yuanling 2
maryannodonnell

jijian kindergarten
Originally uploaded by maryannodonnell
even as yuanling's factories are upgraded to retail storefronts, the old neighborhoods - especially the old courtyard residential areas - are being razed to make way for highrise developments.

watching the chickens feed in the courtyard of new yuanling village remind us (1) that shenzhen was imagined and built in a very different social economy and (2) that value is not simply a matter of upgrades, but nevertheless remains tied to how we imagine the future.

new yuanling village is not an actual village, but an example of the first generation of work unit courtyard residences in shenzhen. in the early 80s, homes here appear in some of the first corruption scandals as early cadres scrambled for homes, which they used as investments and rewards (in turn).

housing in yuanling is still some of the most expensive in the city because with each home comes one elementary and one middle school seat (学位). this is important because yuanling schools are ranked first provincial (省一级), a ranking that suggests students from yuanling do well in the national college entrance exam (高考).

although much of the old housing is rented out, those school seats are coveted and circulate not only with the sale of the house, but part of rental negotiations. not unexpectedly, many have bought in yuanling, but live elsewhere, simply so their children can go to school there.

in addition, the area has been approved for redevelopment, which means that within the next two years, all this will be razed and new housing built. homeowners in yuanling will be compensated with replacement housing (based on square footage conversions, but i'm not sure what precisely the terms are.)

housing and education are two of the great goods in shenzhen. indeed, many women will not marry unless they have a home; many parents spend time, energy, and money trying to provide for their child's education. consequently, it is useful to think about what new yuanling village signified to early shenzhen residents because housing and education are sites where we actively and vigorously create the future.

yuanling looks battered and worn, but the shenzhen dreams of a house and providing for one's only child still resonate. moreover, the importance of this future to shenzhen identity explains how corruption may have been built into the city. it is hard to imagine how communist cadres may have been reduced to scrambling for moldy bits of concrete and in retrospect, the object of their scrambling appears ridiculous. however, it is more than easy to understand how private hopes and dreams for their families' future might have gotten entangled in what those cadres saw when they drew up blueprints, laid foundations, and built a post-mao, post cold war future at yuanling.

when i asked if there were any other benefits to buying a house in yuanling, the salesman looked at me somewhat confused - after all, is there anything more important than a new house (even if many years down the road) and a child's education? - and offered lamely, "you could open a ground floor store."

i like yuanling in its current incarnation. the streets are narrow, quiet, and clean, the buildings shaded by banyan trees, and the occasional palm tree straggles into the sky above working class residents. pictures, here.

greek with chinese characteristics - yuanling 1
maryannodonnell
this weekend, i walked yuanling (园岭), one of the first industrial and residential areas to be developed when shenzhen was officially special.

printing factories still operate in the shrinking industrial area park, however, those that have not been razed for upscale housing development have been and/or are being upgraded to storefront for warehouse like stores for ornate furniture and luxury bathrooms.

it sobers me to think that only ten years ago, this area was a vibrant industrial park, the realization of a particular understanding of modernization, when production and manufacturing were the at the core of shenzhen's economic development strategy. suddenly and abruptly, individualized consumption has been enshrined as economic productivity in the (literal) wreckage of those past ambitions.

when i first came, shenzhen speed was defined in terms of accelerating 100 years of western modernization into a few decades. but all this instant upgrading has me wondering just how fast is an economic cycle anyway? and what comes next? restructuring and economic depression? pics of upgrades, here.

sz bay dec 27 2009
maryannodonnell

sz bay 2003
Originally uploaded by maryannodonnell
today i walked from the poly center at coastal city to circumambulate the construction site of the shenzhen bay sports center. i have started the walk with a that was then moment in 2003, which is today the point where haide 3rd road opens into houhai landfill in front of the kempinski hotel (now open for business). i started the walk from that same position today. the differences between the first and second pictures is only 6 years - but in terms of the production of real estate and growing air pollution problem it feels a lifetime; certainly another world. visit.

also, i have been seriously prevented from uploading to noted in any convenient way and have therefore decided to return to fieldnotes for the foreseeable future. sigh.

than said. chasing possible postings is actually part of this process.

National Day Thoughts
maryannodonnell
Here's the post I had wanted to put up at Noted.

On National Day, I wandered the city, eventually ending up at A Li's for tea and mooncakes. Here are pictures and thoughts.



As part of the joint national day + autumn festival holiday, companies have increased the pressure to consume as a family. HSCB, a Hong Kong bank has used images of a two-children family to promote its credit cards. I'm not sure how to interpret this advertisement. Is it a straight forward representation of one of the many Hong Kong families living in Shenzhen? Is it suggesting that two-children families are a global as international credit cards? Is it a subtle reminder that its hard to cheat on the gaokao then it is to have multiple children in Guangdong? Or is it notice that the integration of the two cities is happening faster and at a more profound level than I had previously thought?

Has anyone else seen two-children family advertising in another Chinese city?




The flags have flown. Here above and along Nanhai Road at the Haiya overpass.







Stopped by my tea vendor's new shop just behind Children's World in Nanshan. In addition to pu'er, I've started to drink Iron Guanyin 铁观音 and snack on mooncakes. During the sampling, we talked about how to live a good life. According to A Li "understanding how to live (懂得生活)" means being able to relax, to take time to taste tea, and to enjoy delicious foods. She is unequivocal that living well means living happy. The conversation then veered to her worries for her daughter, who will enter elementary school next year. A Li wants her daughter to have a happy life, rather than one filled with stress to achieve high marks and social position.

"Like you?" I asked.

"Of course," A Li laughed. "Even my mother-in-law admits its best to have someone like me in the family. There's no peace when everybody wants to be number on (要强). But when there's an easy going person (随和), everyone else can also sit back and relax."

It's not laziness if it brings about a better emotional environment!

Back again at Fieldnotes
maryannodonnell
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

I have returned to Shenzhen Fieldnotes because proxy service in China has been blocked. As of Sept 28, I have been unable to access Shenzhen Noted by way of Tor. From my home computer, googling such cues as "onion (洋葱头)", "jumping the wall (翻墙)", and anything with "proxy (代理器)" result in the message that this information cannot be found. Does anyone else out there know what' happening? Those sites I could access have not mentioned this situation. Thanks in advance for the information.

Shenzhen Fieldnotes has moved!
maryannodonnell
For the past few years, I have blogged about Shenzhen’s various emplacements - symbolic, economic, political - in Shenzhen Fieldnotes at LiveJournal. However, since completing my residency at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, I have reformulated the questions that inspired Fieldnotes. I also learned that on January 6, 2009, LJ laid off a majority of its San Francisco employees. All together, the time seemed right to change servers.

I will continue the conversations begun on Shenzhen Fieldnotes at Shenzhen Noted. I look forward to meeting you there.


Another Sitka cite
maryannodonnell
For more on the upcoming open house, please visit the Newport Times.


Don't worry about eating Chinese food...
maryannodonnell
Fat Bird tries to out-absurd society - the 2009 Shennong Project being a case in point - but, alas society has once again outflanked Fat Bird...

The 2009 Shennong Project plays with the idea that food-phobias are out of control in China. In response to the Sanlu milk powder incident, Fat Bird imagined a world in which food-phobia was the first indication of an evolutionary transformation of humanity. Accordingly, the Fat Bird Institute has set up tests for those afraid of China food to discover if they are "elementals", harbingers of the future.

However, two weeks before Fat Bird will premiere "Shennong", the Nanshan District Government opened the first "放心食品节 (safe food product festival)" on Dec 30, 2008. The Chinese opens itself to all kinds of interpretation. Fangxin usually means "stop worrying" or "no need to worry" so the festival is explicitly a "don't worry anymore about eating food products" festival. Sponsors include the 深圳食品行业协会 (Shenzhen Food Products Federation).

How does the irony slip past unnoticed?!


You are viewing maryannodonnell