Category Archives: Reviews

China and its migrants: the conquest of a citizenship

CP20144-32-Florence-COUVÉric Florence, « Chloé Froissart, La Chine et ses migrants. La conquête d’une citoyenneté (China and its migrants: the conquest of a citizenship), », China Perspectives, 2014/4 | 2014, URL :

La Chine et ses migrants. La conquête d’une citoyenneté (China and its migrants: the conquest of a citizenship) is a major work, and along with Dorothy Solinger’s Contesting Citizenship in Urban China (1999) constitutes the most complete and solidly documented scientific study of rural migrants in the People’s Republic of China, of public policies concerning them, and of the dynamics of their relations with the Party-state. Based on a doctoral thesis, the book examines to what extent the enduring presence of migrant workers in post-Maoist China’s urban areas, and the increasingly important role they play there, have led to a redefinition of criteria for social and political affiliations. In other words, how has the Party-State transformed itself so as to preserve the basis of its power while allowing the partial integration of a social group whose politico-institutional domination is increasingly reflected in rising social, ideological, and economic contradictions? The perspective adopted is resolutely dynamic, perceiving social change as the result of interactions and conflicts between the state and society. The author, a senior lecturer at the University of Rennes 2, documents in detail not only the process of transformation of public policies relating to the management and integration of migrant populations in cities, but also migrants’ practices, norms, and representations vis-à-vis the state and Chinese society.

The work is structured in five parts. In the first, Chloé Froissart offers a genealogy of the concept of citizenship and its mobilisation in the Chinese context. She contrasts the universalist conception inherited from the Enlightenment, by which “the citizen is an abstract subject of laws, implying civic, political, and legal equality of individuals,” with the Maoist one brimming with the notion of a special political and socio-economic determination of individuals’ rights and duties (p. 45). As a framework for interpreting society-state relations, the author offers the dialectic of this dual vision of citizenship that continues to inform the Communist Party’s actions. While Chapter 1 shows that Maoist era ideology and political struggles constitute an inescapable presupposition for interpreting the reach of the constitution and laws of the People’s Republic of China, Chapter 2 documents the role and effects of the “residency permit” (hukou) administrative system that has defined individual-state relations since the 1950s, establishing a system of statuses linked to one’s position in the productive system, local inscription, and political status, and invalidating “the apparent universality of Chinese laws” (pp. 45-46).

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Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Food safety management in China

Jiehong Zhou (Zhejiang University, China), Shaosheng Jin (Zhejiang University, China) (2013)  Food Safety Management in China. A Perspective from Food Quality Control System. Singapore: World Scientific; Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press, 2013. xi + 228 pp. ISBN 978-981-4447-75-1


Jakob A. Klein (2014). Review of ‘Food Safety Management in China: A Perspective from Food Quality Control System’ The China Quarterly, 217, pp 292-293. doi:10.1017/S0305741014000204.

Jakob A. Klein is lecturer in social anthropology at SOAS, University of London, and deputy chair of the SOAS Food Studies Centre. His publications include “Everyday Approaches to Food Safety in Kunming,” The China Quarterly, No. 214 (2013) and, co-edited with Yuson Jung and Melissa L. Caldwell, Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World (forthcoming, University of California Press).

Abstract of the book

In recent years, China has taken a number of effective measures to strengthen the supervision of food quality and safety, but food safety incidents still occur sometimes. The recurrence and intractability of such incidents suggest that, in addition to the imperfect supervision system, the greatest obstacle to China’s food quality safety management is that China’s “farm to fork” food supply chain has too many stages, the members on the supply chain have not form a stable strategic and cooperative relation, and on the other hand, during the transitional period, some practitioners lack social responsibility. Therefore, China’s food quality safety management and the establishment of food quality and safety traceability system should follow the development trend of international food quality and safety supervision, and should combine with the establishment of China’s agricultural industrialization and standardization, integrate China’s existing but isolated effective measures, such as the establishment of bases for the implementation of the system of claiming certificates or invoices, for the performance of Management Regulations for Pig Slaughtering and Quarantine Inspection in Designated Places, and for the conduct of World Expo, as well as the establishment of market access system, take into consideration the demand, the dynamic mechanism, and the performance of important measures of food supply chain members for food quality and safety control, as well as the difficulties and the deep-seated reasons in the implementation process of such measures.

To this end, this book chooses important agricultural products of vegetables, pork and aquatic products as the subjects investigated. From an “integrated” vertical perspective of the supply chain and according to the degree of industrialization of different products, focusing on the key links of quality and safety control of vegetables, pork and aquatic products, this book carries out empirical analysis of the construction of food quality and safety control system, such as HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) quality control system and food quality and safety traceability system, deeply analyzes and straightens out the dynamic mechanism and the performance of different business entities implementing the food quality and safety management system, as well as the bottleneck and deep-seated causes of promoting advanced experience of pilot areas and enterprises in China, and put forward ideas and suggestions of establishing long-term effective food quality and safety management system with regard to vegetables, pork, and aquatic products, which can provide scientific basis for the government to design food quality and safety management policies.

Sample Chapter(s)
Chapter 1: Overview of Food Safety Management in China (499 KB)


  • Overview of Food Safety Management in China
  • Safety of Vegetables and the Use of Pesticides by Farmers in China
  • Adoption of Food Safety and Quality Standards by China’s Agricultural Cooperatives
  • Implementation of Food Safety and Quality Standards: A Case Study of the Vegetable Processing Industry in Zhejiang, China
  • Adoption of HACCP System in the Chinese Food Industry: A Comparative Analysis
  • An Empirical Analysis of the Implementation of Vegetable Quality and Safety Traceability Systems Centering on Wholesale Markets
  • Investment in Voluntary Traceability: Analysis of Chinese Hog Slaughterhouses and Processors
  • Quality Perception, Safer Behavior Management and Control of Aquaculture: Experience of Exporting Enterprises of Zhejiang Province, China
  • Outlook for China’s Food Safety Situation and Policy Recommendations

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Gender inequality in China

19282867Publication of Leta Hong Fincher, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China.  Zed Books, 2014.1

Related links

BBC Video (April 17, 2014)

Impact presenter Lucy Hockings spoke to author Leta Hong Fincher about China’s “Leftover Women” – the state media campaign to label single women above the age of 27 as “leftover” and unwanted. Leta also spoke about the growing inequality gap between men and women in China, especially in property rights.


Interview with Letz Hong Fincher by Yang Shen on LSE Review of Books

(…) According to Fincher, the term ‘leftover woman’ in China ‘is widely used to describe an urban, professional female in her late twenties or older who is still single’ (p.2).

Chapter 1

Fincher examines the leftover women discourse mediated through ‘state media news reports, surveys, columns, cartoons and television shows’ (p.15), and argues that two reasons account for the state promoting the leftover women discourse: one is to maintain social stability in the context of the persisting sex ratio imbalance – China has 32million more men aged under 20 than women – that prevents a lot of men from finding wives; the other is to upgrade the ‘quality’ of the populace by urging well-educated women to marry. It is an insightful observation indeed that the state serves as a latent driver, disseminating this stigmatizing ‘leftover’ women discourse, which arguably has a profound impact on unmarried women over the age of 25.

Chapter 2

considers how Chinese women have been ‘shut out of arguably the biggest accumulation of residential real-estate wealth in history’ because the pressure they experience in trying to avoid becoming ‘leftover’ means that they often ‘give up too much bargaining power within the marriage’ (p.12). Chapter 3 further deals with how ‘many parents discriminate against their own daughters by buying expensive homes for their sons only’, leading to a gendered wealth gap in house buying.

Chapter 5 and 6

The book is written in an accessible style, allowing general readers access to the subject. It also adopts an inclusive approach in that it covers a wide range of issues in relation to women’s property rights, including the rights of LGBT groups in Chapter 3 and Chapter 6, and the relationship between domestic abuse and women’s lack of property rights in Chapter 5. These issues are rarely discussed together when considering gender inequality in China, so the author is to be congratulated for this effort.

However, I did find that in places the evidence provided is insufficient to support the arguments presented. For example, readers are introduced to a female informant who has a university degree but left her job because ‘she wanted to make herself a more attractive marriage candidate, less intimidating to suitors’. She is quoted as saying “my most important duty is to find a good man to marry” (p.39). The author analyses the case by noting that ‘the state media campaign regarding “leftover” women has prompted some highly educated women to quit their jobs even before they get married’ (p.39). Aside from questioning how rare this case is, I find a lack of coherence between the analysis and the quotes as the informant did not explicitly suggest that she was influenced by the ‘leftover’ discourse.

The imprecision in analysis can also be identified in Chapter 3. The author reveals that the informant Shang got married because she believed that she was getting older. The author links her anxiety with ‘the “leftover” women age threshold’ (p.107). Again, the informant did not specify the connection between her anxiety and the prescribed age of ‘leftover’ women advocated by the state media. By adopting the ‘leftover’ women discourse in a one-size-fits-all fashion, it can be argued that the author not only exaggerates the influence that the ‘leftover’ discourse imposes on women, but also ignores the intricate complexity of the reasons for their anxiety. It is not difficult to recognise that unmarried women’s anxiety around their increasing age existed before the emergence of the ‘leftover’ women discourse, and furthermore that it is seen in other countries where the ‘leftover’ women discourse does not exist.

The author cites a remarkable amount of online sources to support her argument, showing engagement with a variety of sources. However Fincher doesn’t acknowledge that they may not be completely trustworthy. In Chapter 2, the author cites the 2012 Horizon and Report, noting that women’s names were endorsed on only 30 per cent of marital home deals (p.46). First, there are perhaps questions as to the credibility of the report, as it did not suggest how many informants were involved, nor how the survey was conducted. Furthermore, it is a pity that the author did not mention the trend indicated by the report, of a 10.2% increase in the number of women’s names on home deeds compared to the time prior to 2006, which can be interpreted as women’s rising power in property rights. (…)

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Interview with Mei Fang on ChinaFile

The three-plus decades since the inception of the ‘one child’ policy have resulted in a huge female shortage in China. The country is now seriously unbalanced, with 18 million more boys than girls. By 2020, there will be some 30 million surplus men in China, a condition some demographers call—in all seriousness—a male bulge.

The laws of supply and demand, which armchair social scientists seem to apply to this situation with abandon, China’s women should have the upper hand.

Former journalist and sociologist Leta Hong Fincher disagrees.

“There’s very little evidence that urban women have turned their scarcity into economic gain,” she writes in Leftover Women, the result of three years voluminous research towards a Ph.D. at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University, which will be released on May 1 in the United States by Zed Books.

Hong Fincher presents compelling evidence women’s rights in China have seriously regressed since Mao Zedong proclaimed, “Women hold up half the sky.”

Hong Fincher makes her claims based on two major factors: an insidious state-backed media campaign designed to hurry single urban women to the altar, and a combination of legal restrictions and cultural norms that keep all but a few women from being listed on property ownership deeds.

Citing a 2012 survey by research group Horizon China, Hong Fincher notes only 30% of marital home deeds in China’s top cities include women’s names, even though more than 70% of women contribute to purchases. This, of course, leaves women in a vulnerable position in cases of divorce and the division of marital property.

In 2011, the issue became more contentious when China’s Supreme Court issued a new interpretation of the country’s Marriage Law, specifying that unless legally contested, marital property belongs to the person listed on the property deed—which, Hong Fincher notes, is almost always the husband.

As a result, Hong Fincher contends, Chinese women have missed out on China’s huge property boom that began within the last decade, “arguably the biggest accumulation of residential real-estate wealth in history,” worth U.S.$27 trillion, she estimates.

Read the text of the interview of  Hong Fincher by Mei Fong

  1. See also Leta Hong Fisher, China’s ‘Leftover’ Women October 11, 2012 New York Times []

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Face-to-Face. An ethnography of forms of association in contemporary China

WOA 20 Umschlag_Hardcover.inddÉric Florence, « Isabelle Thireau (ed), De Proche en proche. Ethnographie des formes d’association en Chine contemporaine (Face-to-Face. An Ethnography of Forms of Association in Contemporary China), », China Perspectives, 2014/1 . URL :

This volume originated in a research collaboration project (2006-2009) among Chinese and French sociologists and anthropologists seeking to “observe the processes of action, association, and coordination.” It analyses the multiple “forms of joint actions and collective initiatives, often disorganised and sometimes fleeting occurring in Chinese society now” (p. 11). While the texts assembled do not take a common theoretical approach, they nevertheless share an anchoring in solid ethnographic work and pay special attention to communication, both oral and written (p. 13).

Furthermore, despite the diversity of contributions, Isabelle Thireau’s introduction picks out several elements that could serve as kernels of the various contributions: the importance of a certain number of spaces (or their destruction) for “face-to-face” interactions or more virtual venues whether private or public, enabling the establishment of an “inter-subjectivity,” base for concerted action; the role “of promises, agreements, and engagements” and their importance for the social tissue in China today; a plurality of “us” noted in situations of association, cooperation, and action, as well as in “choices of action” and a diversity of “links between possibilities and choices”; and finally, accomplished collective actions with different modalities of public “visibility” (pp. 14-19).

The wealth and complexity of social relations dealt with by the various contributions reflects another transversal issue in all the texts in this volume, that of different modalities of links between those who mobilise and form associations on the one hand and state agents on the other. These relations may include asymmetry, reciprocity, mutual dependence, cooperation, instrumentalisation, and co-optation.

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Video: presentation by Isabelle Thireau (in French)



Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Review: China’s environmental challenges

ShapiroFinalHiResHiav-yen Dam (2014), « Judith Shapiro, China’s Environmental Challenges », China Perspectives, URL :

In the decades since the late 1970s, China has become a manufacturing powerhouse for the world. This has helped improve the lives of its population, but major repercussions on its environment have drawn the attention of Western scholars in diverse disciplines since the 1980s. Judith Shapiro’s book is part of this trend. She already published a book on this issue in 2001 (Mao’s War against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China, Cambridge University Press). While that work focused on the Maoist period, her latest offers a panorama on the issue from the launch of reform and opening to the present time. The author was studying Chinese language and civilisation (Master of Asian Studies) at the University of California when she was selected to teach English in Hunan Province in 1979. After returning to the United States two and a half years later, her career took a turn towards Global Environmental Politics. She has since been teaching at the School of International Service at American University (Washington, D.C.).

China’s Environmental Challenges takes the form of a manual for students specialising in environmental policy or contemporary China but also for anyone interested in the subject. Its 205 pages (plus preface) are divided into seven chapters. Each chapter ends with a series of questions and several links to websites so the reader can take the discussion further. The book thus has a highly didactic aspect. It is based on a compilation of secondary sources, Internet sites specialising in environmental issues in China and elsewhere, articles, documentary films as well as some personal interviews and communications addressed to the author. The environmental theme is dealt with using a multidisciplinary approach (political science, environmental anthropology, human geography, environmental history, and economics of the environment) centred on five key analytical concepts: globalisation, governance, national identity, civil society, and environmental justice. The introduction describes the environmental problems and challenges facing China. Chapter 2 details the factors affecting the country’s natural environment: over-population, the rise of the middle class, globalisation and industrialisation, urbanisation and the diminution of arable land, as well as climate change. Chapter 3 looks at the institutional and legal framework of China’s governance system. Chapter 4 focuses on national identity and the possibility of creating a sustainable Chinese model of development. Chapter 5 examines the emergence of a civil society and the population’s participation in the country’s political orientation on environmental issues. The penultimate chapter raises the issue of equity and of the displacement of environmental harm towards poorer regions of China and the world. Finally, by way of conclusion, the author offers paths China might pursue as well as a reflection on the role developed countries may play.

Read the full text of the review

Click here for digital sample copy of the introductory chapter of the book.

Review published in the issue of  China Perspectives 2014/1:  Post-1997 Hong Kong: Emerging social and institutional fractures.

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Researching the city: A guide for students

Review by Zachary Spicer, a PhD Candidate at The University of Western Ontario: Kevin Ward, Researching the city: A guide for students (2013), Sage Publishing.

Over the past decade, urban research and the study of cities have increasingly become inter-disciplinary in focus, now claimed as the domain of geographers, political scientists, economists, historians, anthropologists and sociologists. Departments of urban studies have popped up at dozens, if not hundreds, of universities worldwide. Urban studies journals attract hundreds of quality submissions every year and thousands of readers, while urban studies associations are amongst the fastest growing academic groups. Needless the say, the city is now not only a unit of analysis, but the focus of an emerging discipline. With the growing interest in urban studies, it is time that students hoping to study the city receive a proper methodological primer. Kevin Ward’s edited volume, Researching the City, seeks to do just that.

Researching the City is an interesting and useful tool for students hoping to conduct quality research on urban phenomena. Ward’s volume is intended to help students at the dissertation stage and essentially lays out the purpose, direction and expected outcomes, along with the advantages and disadvantages, methodological approaches. He focuses on eight different approaches: archival research, interviews, ethnography, questionnaires, linguistic and discourse analysis, diary research, GIS and photography and video work. In each chapter, the authors carefully outline how each approach has been used, how they are designed and what one might expect in terms of results. In several chapters the authors draw from past work and personal experience and very candidly demonstrate methodological intricacies that may not be detailed elsewhere.

Read the full text of the review on LSE Book reviews

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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EU climate policy: industry, policy interaction and external environment

Book Review by Susannah Fisher: EU Climate Policy: Industry, Policy Interaction and External Environment by Elin Lerum Boasson and Jørgen Wettestad, Ashgate. January 2013.

This book, EU Climate Policy: Industry, Policy Interaction and External Environment, examines EU climate policy-making in four key areas: emissions trading schemes, renewables, carbon capture and storage, and energy policy for buildings. Drawing on qualitative research it seeks to address the questions of how and why certain policies have taken shape in the ways they have, and attempts to draw out “accounts never told before”. The book looks at three angles in particular to understand EU climate policy development – these are the role of industry, how policies interact and the role of the external environment.The book applies three theoretical approaches to European integration – liberal inter-governmentalism, new institutionalism and multi-level governance – and seeks to apply these to understand the paths between the three angles the book focuses on and the actual policy outcomes.

The emergence of the European Trading Scheme (ETS) after long internal debate in the EU is one of the main case studies. The authors describe how after the failed efforts in the 1990s on carbon taxes and generally weak commitment to a common climate policy this development of the ETS as a flagship project was ‘revolutionary’.

Until 1997 the EU had opposed flexible climate policy instruments. However, in 1998 it started to develop an internal system for trading and a Directive in 2003 set out the main rules. After some challenges in the early stages due to too many allowances and a low carbon price, the system was revised and the streamlined ETS was finally adopted in 2009. The revised system has a centralised character of a “single European market” and was the approach being championed by the European Commission even for the earlier system.

The authors apply their framework and conclude that industry and policy interactions were of minimal importance in the adoption of this policy whilst the external environment acted as a useful stimulus for EU officials who acted as policy entrepreneurs to secure the development. The EU officials conducted a sustained campaign to first set up the system and then to revise it along the lines they had originally proposed, the authors describe this as “tortoise entrepreneurship”.

Another case study is the emergence of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) EU policy. CCS was a relative newcomer to EU climate policy which had initially focused on carbon pricing, energy efficiency and renewable energy but by 2008 CCS was a central part of the EU climate response. In comparison to other climate policy approaches, the response to CCS is highly centralised and consists of technological development with a focus on engineering.

Read the full text of the review on LSE Review of books

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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The car-dependent society: A European perspective

Book review by  Carlos Carrasco Farré: The Car-Dependent Society: A European Perspective. Hans Jeekel. Ashgate. June 2013.

Cars are essential for many in modern Western societies. For example, the car mobility growth between 1995 and 2006 for Belgium was 12 per cent, for France 13 per cent, for Norway 19 per cent, for the United Kingdom 12 per cent and for Finland 24 per cent. This is a unique situation in history, but one that does not get much attention since car use is seen as just a normal part of our everyday lives. Despite knowing the grim environmental and safety risks that come with regular car use – transport worldwide is responsible for 14 per cent of the global CO2 emissions, with 76 per cent of these emissions coming from road transport – we continue to keep driving. In The Car-Dependent Society, Hans Jeekel (Eindhoven University of Technology) uses data from Western Europe to examine three key themes: frequent car use, car dependence, and the future of passenger car mobility in societies.

Jeekel paints a broad and comprehensive picture on frequent car use and on car dependence, its driving forces, its problems and its perspectives. The book not only covers the Dutch situation, but takes a broader perspective and analyses the picture in Germany, the UK, France, Switzerland, Flanders, Sweden and the Netherlands. The focus is placed on the social and cultural aspects of car mobility, making the book perfect for those not trained in statistics and more involved in sociological and cultural research. Jeekel works from a broad conceptual framework, bringing in all sorts of relevant literature: he introduces some relevant theories such as the mobilities approach of Urry, the time geography of Hagerstrand, and the commons approach of Ostrom.

The book is structured around four central concepts. The first one is car dependence and its different definitions. As Jeekel states, some authors define car dependence as synonymous with a high degree of car use. The point is that although the degree of car use is an important indicator, the author thinks it is an incomplete indicator: “dependence has a relationship to lacking alternative, or at least to the perception that alternatives are lacking”. In other words, car use is an indicator of the need for mobility, but not of dependence. The second aspect is the difference between the factual and the perceived car dependence both at personal and at societal level. The third concept is the driving forces behind frequent car use, such as the urban development that disperses activities over greater geographical areas. The final concept is risk society, based on the idea developed by Beck. Our societies are no longer suffering from primarily external risks such as disasters and diseases, but man-made risks are starting to dominate and these risks are “embedded” in the expanding patterns of modern life. Modern western risk societies are presented and the relationship between those characteristics and frequent car use are explored. To further explain these issues, figures and facts from a number of European countries are presented.

Read the full text of the review on LSE Review of books

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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“No Smoking” for the nation: Anti-cigarette campaigns in Modern China, 1910-1935

Anti-Cigarette Campaigns in Modern China

A review of “No Smoking” for the nation: Anti-cigarette campaigns in Modern China, 1910-1935, by Wennan Liu.

This brilliant, meticulously researched dissertation by Wennan Liu, graduate from Fudan University in Shanghai and recent PhD from Department of History at University of California, Berkeley, considers three major anti-cigarette campaigns in modern China: the first initiated by American missionary Edward Waite Thwing (1868-?) in Tianjin in 1910, the second led by retired Qing official Wu Tingfang 伍廷芳 (1842-1922) in Shanghai on the eve of the Revolution in 1911, and the third major anti-cigarette campaign a part of the New Life Movement launched by Chiang Kai-shek between 1934 and 1935.

All three campaigns were unsuccessful. There is no historical evidence that these campaigns brought about significant, long-lasting changes in the consumption patterns of cigarettes across China. Wennan Liu argues that they were “weak in organisation and implementation, because there was no reliable social infrastructure and resources to sustain the campaigns, and also because the civil society and the government lacked co-operation” (p.2). These failures, however, do not diminish their historical importance — unsuccessful campaigns require at least as much sociological explanation as those which did obtain the desired outcomes. As Wennan Liu points out (p.13), the rhetoric, practices and contexts of these exercises in mass persuasion — why they were launched, how they were organised, which groups of actors were involved, what knowledge and evidence were marshalled, and so forth — can illuminate a host of important historical issues.

These issues, which Liu patiently dissects in her dissertation, include: the transnational circulation of medico-scientific discourses concerning smoking and tobacco use; late-Qing social elites, foreign missionaries and their reform agenda; styles of reasoning in mass persuasion and public relations in China; the activities of big companies such as British-American Tobacco around the world; taxation, economic protectionism, the establishment and struggles of the Chinese cigarette industry; the various dynamics and tensions between different levels of the Republican government. The style of writing of this dissertation is exemplary in its clarity and straightforwardness. There is a careful balance of historical detail and argumentation, making this rich and absolutely compelling study accessible to Chinese historians and non-specialists.

Being one of the most important commodities around the world in the twentieth century, the history of tobacco and cigarette-smoking has been covered by a wide range of scholarship. More recent studies in the English language include: Allan Brandt’s The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America (New York: Basic Books, 2009); Eric Burns’ The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007); Matthew Hilton’s Smoking in British Popular Culture, 1800-2000 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000); Cassandra Tate’s Cigarette Wars: The Triumph of “The Little White Slaver (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Ashes to Ashes: The History of Smoking and Health edited by Stephen Lock, Lois Reynolds and E.M. Tansey (Amsterdam: Rodolpi, 1998); Jordan Goodman’s Tobacco in History: The Cultures of Dependence (London: Routledge, 1994); and my personal favourite, Richard Klein’s Cigarettes are Sublime (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995).

For China specifically, there is Sherman Cochran’s classic Big Business in China: Sino-Foreign Rivalry in the Cigarette Industry, 1890-1930 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980); Carol Benedict’s brand new Golden-Silk Tobacco: A History of Tobacco in China, 1550-2010 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011); Timothy Brook and Zhou Xun’s contributions in Smoke: A Global History of Smoking edited by Sander Gilman and Zhou Xun (London: Reaktion Books, 2004);  and shorter treatments in Elizabeth Perry’s Shanghai on Strike: The Politics of Chinese Labour (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995, Chapter 7), Karl Gerth’s China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Centre, 2004); and Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China by Frank Dikötter, Lars Laamann and Zhou Xun (London: C. Hurst, 2004, see pp.201-206).

Read the full text , review by Leon Antonio Rocha (accessed 30 December 2013)

Related link

Chinese officials are asked to “take the lead” in adhering to the smoking ban in public spaces

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Chinese officials are asked to “take the lead” in adhering to the smoking ban in public spaces

According to a circular from the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, officials are not allowed to smoke in schools, hospitals, sports venues, public transport vehicles, or any other venues where smoking is banned.

Government functionaries are prohibited from using public funds to buy cigarettes, nor are they permitted to smoke or offer cigarettes when performing official duties, the circular notes.

“Smoking remains a relatively universal phenomenon in public venues. Some officials smoke in public places, which does not only jeopardized the environment and public health, but tarnished the image of Party and government offices and leaders and has a negative influence,” reads the circular.

The sale of tobacco products and advertisements will no longer be allowed in Party and government offices. Prominent notices of smoking bans must be displayed in meeting rooms, reception offices, passageways, cafeterias and rest rooms.

Read the full text on Xinhuanet, (accessed 30 December 2013)


Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Women and gender in China

Reviews on women and gender in China, published on WAGNet, a network  to help  researchers exchange information and keep up to date with developments and publications in the field of gender and China1.

All reviews published on WAGNet


  1. The Women and Gender in Chinese Studies Network (WAGNet) was inaugurated on the 12th August 2001 in Berlin []

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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The Devouring dragon: How China’s rise threatens our natural world

Craig Simons (2013),  The Devouring Dragon: How China’s Rise Threatens Our Natural World, St Martin’s Press, 304 p.

Book review by Edward Wong

March 12, 2013

BEIJING — The rapid degradation of the environment in China has become a central topic of discussion this year. Air pollution in Beijing and other parts of northern China hit record levels in January. Water pollution was thrust into the spotlight this week when official news reports said that nearly 6,000 dead pigs had been found floating in a river that slices through the heart of Shanghai. Meanwhile, environmental advocates are pressing the government to release data on soil pollution, which officials have categorized as a state secret.

It is no wonder, then, that delegates to the National People’s Congress, which is holding its annual meeting now in Beijing, are debating environmental issues, even if the congress is largely a rubber-stamp legislature charged with giving Communist Party policy a veneer of popular legitimacy.

Just as worrisome, if not as hotly discussed among Chinese, is the impact that China is having on the environment in other parts of the world. It is not an easy thing to gauge, but Craig Simons, a former Asia correspondent for Cox Newspapers, set out to do exactly that. He documented his findings in his first book, “The Devouring Dragon: How China’s Rise Threatens Our Natural World,” which was published March 12 by St. Martin’s Press. Mr. Simons spoke recently about his reasons for embarking on this project, how Chinese officials assess climate change and what the United States can do to mitigate China’s environmental effects. These are excerpts from that conversation.

Read the full text of the review in The New York Times

Book review by David Wilson

March 31, 2013

Back at the dawn of the 19th century British scholar Thomas Malthus sensed mankind’s future: the “power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race,” he said

Malthus was right to despair, judging by a gripping new assessment of China’s rise in the wake of some dire planetary precedents. First, The Devouring Dragon recounts, those twisted twins the United States and Europe hammered the planet, clear-cutting forest and burning fuel in an orgy of “development”. Next came China’s turn. In 1976, when its rise was just starting, it chewed through only 550 million tonnes of coal.

“By 1997, its demand had exceeded that of the United States, but it still used what now looks like a quaint number: 1.4 billion [tonnes]. Then – in the 13 years from 1997 to 2009 – China added over 2 billion [tonnes] of annual coal demand, the equivalent of two new nations as voracious as the United States, which – until China surpassed it – had been the world’s biggest coal consumer,” writes author Craig Simons, who has reported on the environment from a dozen Asian nations for Newsweek.

Read the full text of the review in The South China Morning Post

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Urban villages and urban integration

This article written1by Liu Yuting (South China University of Technology), He Shenjing (Sun-Yatsen University), Wu Fulong Cardiff University) and Chris Webster (Cardiff University), analyses the phenomenon of urban villages in China and their physical and social integration into cities.

In China, the concept of urban villages should not be understood as in Western countries, where it refers to an urban planning project promoting pedestrian facilities and mixed use zoning. In China, urban villages (城中村: villages surrounded by city) are the unplanned results of an intensive urban sprawl. Chinese cities have been spreading into their rural surrounding for the last twenty years.  Many farmlands have been requisitioned by city governments; however in most cases, villagers have kept their housing lots. However, in the absence of farm lands, villagers have become landlords: they have constructed buildings on their housing lots and are renting to large numbers of migrants. These urban villages are often depicted by the media and by researchers as problem areas, suffering from poverty, social disorder and low quality housing.

The authors have deliberately chosen to look at the positive aspects of urban villages; the aim of their article is to study the dynamics of urban villages, based on several field trips conducted in 2006 and 2007 in eleven urban villages located in six major Chinese cities of different sizes and income levels (Guangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xian and Harbin).

The authors first look at the residents in urban villages and the way they adapt to this rural-urban environment.

  • Because of urban sprawl, local villagers’ working activities have changed. Without farmland, they can no longer work in the fields. Furthermore, they lack the necessary working skills to find jobs in the city. By renting apartments or rooms to migrants on their housing lots, local villagers can expect a comfortable source of income, and thus gain a higher social status.
  • Another point is that local villagers have been empowered by their participation in collective organisations. Farm land that belongs to the village itself has not been requisitioned by city governments, but has been transformed into low-cost housing units for the migrants. Every local villager has become a shareholder of this organisation, and receives money from the tenants. The local villagers’ committee is also in charge of social welfare in urban villages and acts as a governing body.
  • Urban villages offer cheap accommodation to rural migrants. In their studies, the authors note that rental prices in urban villages are half of those in urban districts. Urban villages also offer a wide range of informal employment to the newly arrived migrants. According to the authors, urban villages facilitate migrants’ integration into cities.

Low quality housing in Shaoxing, Goulard SébastienSecondly, the authors argue that urban villages are not only physical places, located between cities and rural areas, but also represent a social transition between traditions and modernity. The authors note a vacuum of formal authority within the urban village. City governments do not wish to be responsible for management and social welfare in the urban villages, as this would demand large investments.   In the absence of city regulations, urban villages have kept their traditional forms of governance.  Because they are located in urban villages, rural settlements remain collective and the community still plays an important role. The article describes the villagers’ community as a patriarchal society with strong family connections.

The authors plead for more tolerance for urban villages. However, they also point out that the longer city governments wait to begin, the more costly urban redevelopment will be. They also call for the authorities to empower local grassroots organizations to deal with social issues, and advocate the introduction of market rules in the housing sector of urban villages.

This article depicts another facet of urban villages. However, we may raise objections concerning the sustainability of urban villages. The absence of formal regulations may create unsolvable issues in the long run. Moreover, promoting villagers’ committees may not be a sufficient remedy for the integration of urban villages, because villagers committees only represent local residents’ interests, while rural migrants living in those urban villages have little chance to defend their own interests.  A sustainable solution would involve large scale investments by city governments in public housing and a reform of the hukou system.

  1. Liu, Yuting, He, Shenjing, Wu, Fulong & Webster, Chris. 2010 “Urban villages under China’s rapid urbanization: unregulated assets and transitional neighbourhoods”. Habitat International, 34 (2), pp. 135-144, retrieved from 10.1016/j.habitatint.2009.08.003, []

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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Housing the urban poor

Based on the case study of Nanjing, this article, written by Guo Chen (Michigan State University)1, looks at the households and housing conditions of China’s urban poor. China’s housing system has greatly evolved since the late 1970’s, with the progressive transfer of housing responsibility from state subsidies to a market-oriented system.  These reforms have boosted housing development and improved housing conditions in China. But has this privatization of housing provided solutions for poverty issues in Chinese cities?

 To better understand the impact of the recent evolution in housing policies on poverty,   Guo Chen has chosen to study the housing conditions for different categories of poor households in Nanjing, according to background, housing tenure and location.

  • Guo Chen’s research, based on surveys and interviews, firstly shows that the hukou registration system still has a strong impact on housing conditions. Rural migrants are still the least privileged group among poor urban households and so live in the worst conditions.
  • Housing conditions also depend on tenure status:  Guo Chen argues that owners’ homes have better living conditions than renters’.  The latter are very dependent on the way they procured their housing:  from work units, housing bureaus or on the private market. She notes that work units remain an influential factor in housing. Thus, resettled households enjoy better and larger housing when it is provided by work units instead of private companies.
  • Another point deals with location. At the time Guo Chen was conducting her research, Nanjing was undergoing very intensive urban renewal, which led to large resettlement programmes in Nanjing’s suburbs. The author examined the condition of the housing offered to the resettled poor households. According to her surveys, resettlement housing “when made by work units and housing bureaus” offered better quality to residents than the former housing.

Poor housing in Haikou, China, Goulard Sébastien In spite of the ongoing privatization of housing, Guo Chen argues that there is a path dependence to the pre-reform system with the continuing influence of hukou and working units on housing conditions.  She also notes that those who are the most exposed to the housing reforms suffer the most from poor housing conditions.

The author pleads for a better administered system for housing provision and support, as well as greater municipal participation in relocation programmes.

Although this article was published in 2011, the research and surveys were conducted in 2004. Since then, many reforms have been carried out in China, urban development has improved and real estate prices have increased. But we can assume that the author’s conclusions are still relevant today. Issues related to rural exodus have not disappeared and rural migrants still suffer from poor housing conditions. The hukou system has not been abolished, and migrants without local hukou face more difficulties in integrating into city life. On the other hand, Chinese municipalities seem to be paying more attention to issues concerning poor housing and are heavily investing in public housing in order to reduce social discontent. However, municipal investments in public housing are, for the most part, financed by the sale of land and by taxes from private urban development programmes. City governments need to find a balance between the private housing market and a system of public housing subsidies.

This article also reminds us that poverty is not only rural, but urban. Recent research2 conducted in Europe shows that poverty is greater in large cities than in middle-size agglomerations. The problem of housing the poor has still not been resolved in Europe. Another interesting point that is highlighted in Guo Chen’s paper is the fact that poverty is not homogenous; there are several different levels of poverty and so a wide range of measures is needed to solve these issues.

  1. Chen, Guo. 2011. “Housing the urban poor in post-reform China: Some empirical evidence from the city of Nanjing”, Cities []
  2. Compas, Premières estimations du taux de pauvreté des plus grandes communes de France, étude n°2, August 2012, retrieved from (accessed 30 November 2012) []

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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Traditional architectural forms in market oriented Chinese cities

This paper entitled “Traditional architectural forms in market oriented Chinese cities: Place for localities or symbol of culture?”, written by Fei Chen (University of Liverpool) gives a critical analysis of urban conservation and regeneration programmes in China1.  Ever since Beijing’s implementation of regulation on urban conservation, major Chinese cities have undertaken urban conservation projects. The author has selected four of them to study:  “Hu’er hutong” in Beijing, “Tong Fang Xiang” in Suzhou, the “Xintiandi” project in Shanghai and “Nanjing 1912” in Nanjing. The initial objectives of these conservation programmes were to provide modern facilities to residents and to preserve some of the traditional urban characteristics of the area, but because of capitalisation in the historical districts, the author notes that local authorities and land developers gradually came to neglect social cohesion, as the price of land increased. 

Fei Chen analyses these four programmes from three different perspectives: developers’ and local governments’ initiatives, their impact on residents, and the use of traditional architecture.

  • According to Fei Chen, the way in which local authorities intervene through these regeneration programmes has changed over the years. On the one hand, local authorities have decreased subsidies for the preservation of these particular historical districts as real estate prices have risen. On the other hand, municipal governments have, more and more, supported measures aimed at improving an image or promoting a place. Urban regeneration programmes have become tourist destinations.
  • Secondly, the author notes that these programmes did not all have the same objectives. Whereas the early ones tended to maintain the original residents in their historical districts, the later ones had a more commercial purpose and did not offer in situ housing lots for former residents who were then relocated far from the city centre. But even in the case of Beijing and Suzhou, the original residents were not able to keep their homes in these “preserved districts”; real estate pressure caused most of them to choose to sell or rent their former house to the emerging middle-class, which was seeking a more traditional “Chinese” atmosphere. These projects have in fact exacerbated the gentrification process of historical districts in Chinese cities.
  • In the field of architecture, Fei Chen observes an evolution of the regeneration process. The first urban development programmes tended to adapt traditional aspects to modern life. For instance, in Beijing’s Ju’er Hutong, the new courtyards were built to a design that allowed residents to socialise, thus respecting the “substance” of Chinese traditional living.  But more recent programmes have given preference to reproducing particular features of traditional architecture, such as curved roofs, to enhance their projects.  In other words, conservation efforts are limited to aesthetic considerations. The author notes that, in every case, tradition has been manipulated for the purpose of promoting a particular place, in order to offer an “exotic” and attractive image to the new Chinese upper-middle class and to tourists. Fei Chen regrets that in transforming these districts, many original buildings have been destroyed and she illustrates this with the case of Xintiandi, where only 2 historical blocks out of 23 have been preserved. 

Sinan Mansions, a high end complex near Xintiandi, Shanghai, Goulard SébastienFei Chen advocates more local resident participation in regeneration programmes, in order to avoid gentrification and truly respect traditions. For the author, traditions cannot persist exclusively in the form of architectural elements, but need the involvement of residents who will adapt traditions to their needs. Thus, we can conclude that the author opposes the creation of historical districts that resemble museums with frozen traditions.

As Fei Chen points out, Chinese cities have had to “modernise” their city centres as a consequence of rapid urban development. However some parts have been preserved or transformed into historical districts. Residents have been excluded from these initiatives, which have mainly served commercial and tourist purposes.  

Issues regarding historical conservation are being dealt with in many cities around the world, and particularly in Europe. But unlike Chinese cities, the historical districts in European cities are not preserved by means of a single large scale programme. There is a variety of projects (regeneration, rehabilitation) for the same area. This diversity of projects makes historical districts more vibrant and creates links with other parts of the city.

Full text available online

  1. Chen, F (2011) “Traditional architectural forms in market oriented Chinese cities: Place for localities or symbol of culture?” Habitat International vol 35, issue 2:410-18 []

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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