Category Archives: Social Phenomena

Legacy of the Rural-Urban Divide: Urban Villages (城中村)

One of the more unique features of Chinese cities is the phenomenon of “urban villages”. These are former rural areas that, with rapid urbanization and rural-urban migration, have been enveloped by ever expanding cities. What once was farmland is sold … Continue reading

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Of Gifts and Returns

China is a gift giving culture, no more so than at Spring Festival. In addition to red envelopes of cash (红包), given usually to children but also passed among older family members, when visiting relatives and friends in the days … Continue reading

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Utopian Futurism

On the northwest edge of Beijing is an exhibition center sitting on the site of what will be the Changping District Technology Innovation City. Inside is a scale model of a new development where buses run on special paths, gleaming … Continue reading

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90s Punk Rock: He Yong (何勇)

There’s a minor punk and hardcore metal scene in China, mostly centered in Beijing and Shanghai. It seems only fitting that just about the only alternative to sing-songy ballads and western-imitation pop is music that often rejoices in being inaccessible … Continue reading

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What a Maserati and Jet Li Say about Civil Society

A while ago the Chinese internet latched onto the story of Guo Meimei, a young woman who posted pictures of herself wearing luxury clothes and driving a Maserati. The controversy is that the girl also claimed she worked for the … Continue reading

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Things I Talk About When I Talk About Education in China

I’m back in the US for a while after 2 years in China and I realize I’ve started to develop a standard line on some topics, especially education. In the spirit of Haruki Murakami, these are the things I talk … Continue reading

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Red Songs and Exceptionalism

One of the jarring things about modern China is the persistence of Communist self-aggrandizing pageantry. July 1st is the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party and the commemoration is already in full swing. Newspapers are running special … Continue reading

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