Category Archives: Life style

Mini-documentary profiles artists who are shunning China’s urban explosion

In 2011, China had more people living in urban areas than rural areas for the first time in its history, and recent government statistics show that around 300 villages disappear per day in China. Yet in the face of rapid urbanization, a “back to land movement” is now also emerging. A new mini-documentary by Sun Yunfan and Leah Thompson, Down to the Countryside, looks at urban residents who, fed up with city life, are looking to revitalize the countryside, while preserving local tradition. The documentary follows Ou Ning, an artist and curator, who moved from Beijing to the village of Bishan, in Anhui province, in 2013. Ning considers himself part of China’s “new rural reconstruction movement,” and the documentary shows his quest to develop the rural economy and bring arts and culture to the countryside.

Learn more about the film on China File and check out an interview with the directors on CityLab.

H/T CityLab

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Cultural and Institutional Bifurcation: Clan versus City

Cultural and Institutional Bifurcation: China and Europe Compared. Article written by Avner Greif and Guido Tabellini. American Economic Review, May 2010.

 How to sustain cooperation is a key challenge for any society. Different social organizations have evolved in the course of history to cope with this challenge by relying on different combinations of external ( formal and informal)  enforcement institutions and intrinsic motivation. Some societies rely more on informal enforcement and moral obligations within their constituting groups. Others rely more on formal enforcement and general moral obligations towards society at large. How do culture and institutions interact in generating different evolutionary trajectories of societal organizations? Do contemporary attitudes, institutions, and behavior reflect distinct pre-modern trajectories?

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Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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No more begging in Beijing’s subway

Last month, Beijing’s municipality has decided to ban begging in the subway. This regulation will come into effect in May 2015.

Beijing subway beggars face fine of up to 1,000 yuan (2014). China Daily November, 28). Retrieved December 14 from  http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-11/28/content_18995305.htm.

The regulation ruled out 17 dangerous acts that would undermine subway security, including entering the rail or the tunnel, and placing or abandoning barriers along the rail line.

In a subway station or train, people will not be allowed to beg, perform for money or dispense advertising pamphlets. The regulation also disallowed walking in the opposite direction of a moving escalator, running for fun, skateboarding, roller-skating or cycling.

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Eco-cities and the transition to low carbon economies

Caprotti, Federico (2014). Eco-cities and the transition to low carbon economies. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan. 136 p. ISBN : 9781137298751 (Hardcover) / 9781137298751 (Ebook EPUB) / 9781137298751 (Ebook PDF).

9781137298751.inddEco-cities are increasingly being marketed as solutions to a range of pressing global concerns, such as environmental and climate change, hyper-urbanization, demographic shifts, energy security, and the Peak Oil scenario. In response to these issues, eco-cities are being conceptualized as ‘experimental cities’, new urban areas in which new technologies and ways of organizing urban and economic life can be trialled, and where transition pathways towards low-carbon economies can be tested. The author examines the two most advanced eco-city projects under construction at the time of writing – the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City in China, and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. These are the largest and most notable attempts at building new eco-cities to both face up to the ‘crises’ of the modern world and to use the city as an engine for transition to a low-carbon economy.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Smoking and risk perceptions in China

chinese-no-smokingLast month, the authorities of Beijing adopted a law banning smoking in indoor public spaces. Smoking is a big issue in China and officials take this problem seriously.

But according to a recent article published in the “Nicotine and Tobacco research” journal1, more policies need to be adopted to reduce tobacco consumption in China. In this article, authors noted that:

Smokers in China did not recognize their heightened personal risk of cancer, possibly reflecting ineffective warning labels on cigarette packs, a positive affective climate associated with smoking in China.

The article shows that Chines smokers seem not to be aware of the real dangers of tobacco.

 

  1. Alexander Persoskie et al(2014).’Absolute and comparative cancer risk perceptions among smokers in two cities in China’. Nicotine and Tobacco research, 16(6), pp.899-903 []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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A boy being photographed by his family, and a boy being abandoned by his family

Emperor2

The first photo was taken on 21 November 2014 in Pudong New District, Shanghai. The second was taken in Guangzhou, and was featured in an articled written by Alex Millson, and published by the South China Morning Post on 2 April 2014. They reflect two consequences of the CCP’s policies. The first one might be a result of the One-Child Policy, the second of the absence of a comprehensive social security system. According to the article, the city closed the doors of a “baby hatch” just after two months of its opening due to the overwhelming number of children who were abandoned, all of them ill or disabled.

Captura de pantalla 2014-11-21 a las 10.40.43

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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A Horse Dragon flying from Nantes to Beijing

For the celebration of the 50th anniversary of France-China diplomatic relations, a Horse Dragon (龙马) automaton was sent to Beijing, where it took part in a performance with a giant mechanical spider near the Olympic site.

These robots were designed and operated by a French production company based in Nantes.

Longma (horse dragon) is not the first automaton to originate from Nantes. This French city has become the home of similar projects since 1989, when the association Royal de Luxe launched “Le Géant” (the Giant). The Giant’s family has since extended with the creation of a Giant’s daughter and a Giant’s grandma (in 2014). More automatons, including an elephant and some spiders, were born on Nantes’ piers. These structures have become symbols of Nantes and are also city ambassadors traveling to Liverpool, Yokohama, and now Beijing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKVjdOAasF0

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Development and evaluation of a food environment survey in three urban environments of Kunming

soupecanardJenna Hua, Edmund Seto, Yan Li and May C Wang, (2014) Development and canardsetlegumesevaluation of a food environment survey in three urban environments of Kunming, China, BMC Public Health 2014, 14:235  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-235

 Abstract

Given the rapid pace of urbanization and Westernization and the increasing prevalence of obesity, there is a need for research to better understand the influence of the built environment on overweight and obesity in world’s developing regions. Culturally-specific food environment survey instruments are important tools for studying changing food availability and pricing. Here, we present findings from an effort to develop and evaluate food environment survey instruments for use in a rapidly developing city in southwest China.

We developed two survey instruments (for stores and restaurants), each designed to be completed within 10 minutes. Two pairs of researchers surveyed a pre-selected 1-km stretch of street in each of three socio-demographically different neighborhoods to assess inter-rater reliability. Construct validity was assessed by comparing the food environments of the neighborhoods to cross-sectional height and weight data obtained on 575 adolescents in the corresponding regions of the city.

273 food establishments (163 restaurants and 110 stores) were surveyed. Sit-down, take-out, and fast food restaurants accounted for 40%, 21% and 19% of all restaurants surveyed. Tobacco and alcohol shops, convenience stores and supermarkets accounted for 25%, 12% and 11%, respectively, of all stores surveyed. We found a high percentage of agreement between teams (>75%) for all categorical variables with moderate kappa scores (0.4-0.6), and no statistically significant differences between teams for any of the continuous variables. More developed inner city neighborhoods had a higher number of fast food restaurants and convenience stores than surrounding neighborhoods. Adolescents who lived in the more developed inner neighborhoods also had a higher percentage of overweight, indicating well-founded construct validity. Depending on the cutoff used, 19% to 36% of male and 10% to 22% of female 16-year old adolescents were found to be overweight.

The prevalence of overweight Chinese adolescents, and the food environments they are exposed to, deserve immediate attention. To our knowledge, these are the first food environment surveys developed specifically to assess changing food availability, accessibility, and pricing in China. These instruments may be useful in future systematic longitudinal assessments of the changing food environment and its health impact in China.

Read the full text on Biodmed central

Photo credit: J. Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Neglect of a neighbourhood: oral accounts of life in ‘old Beijing’ since the eve of the People’s Republic

Neglect of a neighbourhood: oral accounts of life in ‘old Beijing’ since the eve of the People’s Republic. Paper written by Harriet Evans (2014), Urban History, Volume 41, Issue04, November 2014 pp 686-704.

ABSTRACT

Oral accounts of life over seven decades in Dashalanr, a popular neighbourhood in central Beijing, reveal a social world that despite being shaped by the state’s policies of social and political classification, housing and employment, has been resistant to complete appropriation by them. Based on research in the neighbourhood since 2005, and drawing on Xuanwu District archives, this article examines local residents’ accounts of long decades of hardship and neglect. With an analytical framework that links gender with temporality, place and space, it suggests ways in which their singular experiences can be read as historical narrative.

Please click here to read the article (access restricted): http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=9357383

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Space modernization and social interaction

Yang, Qingqing (2015). Space modernization and social interaction : a comparative study of living space in Beijing. Berlin ; Heidelberg : Springer. XVII-152 p. ISBN : SBN 978-3-662-44348-4.

This book concerns the Beijing Hutong and changing perceptions of space, of social relations and of self, as processes of urban redevelopment remove Hutong dwellers from their traditional homes to new high-rise apartments. It addresses questions of how space is humanly built and transformed, classified and differentiated, and most importantly how space is perceived and experienced. This study elaborates and expands Lefebvre’s “trialectic” of space on a theoretical level. The ethnography presented is a conversation with Tim Ingold’s argument about “empty space”. This research employs the ethnographic technique of participant-observation to secure a finely textured, detailed and micro-social account of local experience. Then, these micro-social insights are contextualized within macro-social structures of Chinese modernism by speaking to geographical concerns, orientalism and history.

More information on Springer

 

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Urbachina’s WP5 workshop at LSE

LSE2

Stephan Feuchwang, leader of Urbachina’s work package 5 “Urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles” organised a workshop at the London School of Economics and Political Science on 25 and 26 September. During the workshop, the researchers from this team (Zhang Hui, Luo Pan, Wang Xiaoxia, Jude Howell, Paula Morais, and Renate Krieg) shared their findings for discussion and comparison not only with each other, but also with our two scientific advisers who have vast research experience in urban life and planning in China, Dan Abramson and David Bray, and with a number of others who have conducted research on urban life and governance in China and other parts of the world, including Europe.

The task of this work package on ‘urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles’ has been to investigate how new municipal institutions interact with residents, who bring to their urban relocation ways of organising themselves and improvise new ones. The focal topics were urban government, self-government and social sustainability.

Field research was conducted between March 2012 and April 2014 in the four cities selected by the UrbaChina consortium: the two large cities of Shanghai and Chongqing, and the two medium sized cities of Kunming and Huangshan. It is the most extensive systematic research on urban communities, as well as the most recent to date. One of the main results has been the deconstruction of the very conception of community, as a policy concept and an instrument of governance.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Dust and sweat

dust and sweatIn 2012, Liu Xinwu’s novel Chén yǔ hàn (尘与汗, in English Dust and sweat) was translated into French and I recently read it with great interest. Liu Xinwu (刘心武), one of contemporary China’s most gifted writers, wrote this novel in 1998, and gave us an insight into a migrant’s life in the late ‘90s. In this book we discover how Lao He (the main character) and his companions adapt to their urban life. As suggested by the novel’s title, this life is tough. We discover the hard living conditions of migrant workers, and their strategies for “muddling through”.
These ex-farmers are searching for new opportunities, new ways of earning their living. They are led down very different paths: in this novel, they encounter a triad member, a man who rents trampolines and a Daoist soothsayer.
For some of Lao He’s colleagues, buying lottery tickets is another way to transform their lives, and sometimes it works…

This novel also reveals the gap between the older generation of migrants, who do not fit in this new China (to the point of losing their mind), and the younger generation, who already feel urban.
This book can be seen as a snapshot of the late ‘90s in China, like Lao She (another great Chinese writer)’s novels in their time .

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Consuming urban living in ‘villages in the city’: studentification in Guangzhou

He, Shenjing (2014). Consuming urban living in ‘villages in the city’: Studentification in Guangzhou, China. Urban Studies. Published online before print August 1, 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0042098014543703

Against the backdrop of higher education expansion, studentification refers to a particular type of urban sociospatial restructuring resulting from university students’ concentration in certain residential areas. Over the last decade, studentification has evolved into different forms and has spread to different locales. This study aims to provide a contextualised understanding of this distinct phenomenon in China so as to decode the complex dynamics of urban sociospatial transformation in the Chinese city. In this paper, I present a line of empirical evidence based on fieldwork in Xiadu Village and Nanting Village, two studentified villages close to university campuses in Guangzhou. These two villages exemplify different consumption and spatial outcomes of studentifcation, owing to different institutional arrangements, types of studentifiers and roles of villagers. Yet, in both villages, studentification has profoundly transformed the economic, physical, social and cultural landscapes. Notably, rather than the spatialisation of compromised and marginalised residential choices by higher education students, studentification in China is better interpreted as the spatial result of students’ conscious residential, entrepreneurial and consumption choices to escape from the rigid control of university dorms, to accumulate cultural and economic capital, as well as to actualise their cultural identity. In the Chinese context, studentification provides a useful prism to understand a unique trajectory of urbanisation: re-urbanising the ‘villages in the city’ through bringing in urban living/urban consumptions. In the long run, studentification could provide a potential solution to sustain and upgrade the villages in the city.

Read full text article at Sage Journals (restricted access)

 

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Midday siesta

Siesta

This photo was taken last April behind the Huguang Guild Hall in Chongqing. Huguang Guild Hall is located in Chaotianmen, an old neighbourhood at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers, which used to be the landing place for boats travelling on both rivers. Now this neighbourhood awaits its demolition. The guild hall, built during the reign of Qianlong, will remain standing while witnessing the high-speed modernization of the neighbourhood. The photo was taken just after lunch, the time of the siesta, a sacred custom in China.

The Chinese treasure the siesta, and devote at least half an hour a day for resting after lunch no matter where they are or what they are doing: white-collars take their pillows to their office and have no qualms falling asleep at desks; university students vanish as they go to their dorms to take a nap just after lunch and before afternoon classes resume. The siesta is regarded as a healthy activity according to Chinese medicine. This is an interesting philosophy when contrasted with the West, where it has almost become a synonym of laziness. Ever since I was a kid, whenever I went abroad, foreigners would tell me about the Spanish “easy” approach to work, something that was apparently related to our devotion to the siesta. In Spain, people have grown increasingly polarized about this topic, and most office workers said adiós to siesta a long time ago. The Chinese, on the contrary, seem to have got away with keeping it, and their reputation as tough workers remains intact despite adhering to this tradition. Also, they all seem to agree on the benefits of a good siesta.

Looking at this lady resting at the entrance of the temple enjoying the coolness provided by the stone walls, one feels inspired to make the best use of the idle afternoons of this summer interlude.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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From socialist danwei to new danwei

Chai, Yanwei (2014). From socialist danwei to new danwei: a daily-life-based framework for sustainable development in urban China. Asian Geographer. Published online: 1 August 2014. DOI: 10.1080/10225706.2014.942948

The danwei (or work unit) compound was the basic spatial and social unit of urban China in the pre-reform period, and its transformation has been an important part of the larger transitions that have remade urban China during the reform era. This paper investigates spatial and social changes in urban China over three stages; namely, the formation of the socialist danwei system, the decline of the socialist danwei and the formation of a new kind of danwei. I argue that the socialist danwei included positive elements like mixed land use, job-housing balance and social equality, while the decline of the socialist danwei system has resulted in many negative outcomes such as spatial mismatch and social segregation. In proposing a framework for new danwei, I suggest that urban life should be structured around residents’ daily activity spaces based on their daily-life-circle systems. The concept of the new danwei offers a practical solution through combining a human-focused approach with consideration of China’s contemporary economic and social reality. The paper concludes with a discussion on possible avenues for future research.

Read full text on Taylor & Francis Online (restricted access)

 

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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