Category Archives: Mobiles




Newsstand in Chaotianmen (朝天门), near the confluence of the Jialing river (嘉陵江) and the Yangzte (长江). Photo taken during a field trip to Chongqing in March 2014.

In the age of smart phones, e-books, personal digital assistants, tablets, and a long train of etcetera, paper books seem to be doomed to disappear from the streets. This outcome, which has been attempted by emperors and envisioned in science fiction, might eventually happen due to technology. Perhaps it was happening already, before the arrival of these electronic devices, which in most cases are used for anything but reading. At any rate, the passer-by is captivated once more by traditional newsstands that bring a whiff of nostalgia. The one in the photo offers a library service as well. Readers may borrow books from the collection available for 1 yuan a day. There is no need to register or ask for a reader’s card. Trust is taken for granted, and it seems to work. According to the seller, never has a reader forgotten to return a book.

Miguel Elosua

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

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Mobile phone use among migrant factory workers in South China

Peng, Yinni  and Choi, Susanne Y. P. (2013). Mobile phone use among migrant factory workers in South China: technologies of power and resistance. The China Quarterly, 215, pp 553-571. doi:10.1017/S0305741013000738.


Comparing ethnographic and interview data in three contrasting production arrangements in a labour-intensive factory in South China, this article argues that while the mobile phone constitutes a new contested terrain on the shop floor and facilitates control and resistance between capital and labour simultaneously, the dynamics of control and resistance is contingent upon the exact arrangements of production. While the management strictly prohibit line operators in the assembly line department from using their mobile phones, they turn a blind eye towards mobile phone use among workers in the hardware department, and mandate mobile workers who are not fixed at work stations in both departments to use mobile phones. Diverse managerial control tactics have generated different patterns of worker resistance. Workers in the assembly line department employ strategies to evade managerial surveillance and continue to use mobile phones at work covertly. They also contest the double standards of mobile phone use displayed by the management. Workers in the hardware department challenge the boundaries of legitimate mobile phone use, and mobile workers use tactics to escape being tracked down by the management via their mobile phones. Mobile phones also facilitate the strategy of resistance through exit among all workers.

Read full text on Cambridge Journals online (restricted access or purchase option)

About the authors

  1. Peng Yinni (彭铟旎) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Baptist University
  2. Susanne Y. P. Choi (蔡玉萍) is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong



Monique Abud

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

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Rumor, mobile phone, and resistance in contemporary China

Jun Liu (2013), Rumor, Mobile Phone, and Resistance in contemporary China Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University
This study examines the characteristics and nature of rumor via mobile communication in contemporary China. By focusing on six concrete case studies with 50+ in-depth interviews, this study observes that mobile phone-mediated rumor has evolved into a special form of popular resistance at the grassroots level. The low-cost and user-friendly mobile device lowers the average protest threshold, creating an unprecedented opportunity for people, especially those without complicated communication skills, to organize, coordinate, or participate in resistance. The mutual visibility of meta-communication through
mobile network greatly increases both credibility of information and sense of security for participation. Additionally, the synchrono us mobile communication accumulates rumor discourse into resistance in a very short time. As a new kind of contentious politics, rumor dissemination via mobile phones show the opposition to government censorship and control of communications, and most important, the resistance against the use of the accusation of “rumor” by authorities to stifle any different voices.

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Technomobility in China: young migrant women and mobile phones

Cara Wallis (2013), Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones, New York: NYU Press, 288 p. ISBN-10:0814795269 ISBN-13:978-0814795262

As unprecedented waves of young, rural women journey to cities in China, not only to work, but also to “see the world” and gain some autonomy, they regularly face significant institutional obstacles as well as deep-seated anti-rural prejudices. Based on immersive fieldwork, Cara Wallis provides an intimate portrait of the social, cultural, and economic implications of mobile communication for a group of young women engaged in unskilled service work in Beijing, where they live and work for indefinite periods of time.
While simultaneously situating her work within the fields of feminist studies, technology studies, and communication theory, Wallis explores the way in which the cell phone has been integrated into the transforming social structures and practices of contemporary China, and the ways in which mobile technology enables rural young women—a population that has been traditionally marginalized and deemed as “backward” and “other”—to participate in and create culture, allowing them to perform a modern, rural-urban identity. In this theoretically rich and empirically grounded analysis, Wallis provides original insight into the co-construction of technology and subjectivity as well as the multiple forcesthat shape contemporary China.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Mobile Bodies, Mobile Technologies, and Immobile Mobility
  • Ch. 2 Market Reforms, Global Linkages, and (Dis)continuity in Post-Socialist China
  • Ch. 3 “My First Big Urban Purchase”: Mobile Technologies and Modern Subjectivity
  • Ch. 4 Navigating Mobile Networks of Sociality and Intimacy
  • Ch. 5 Picturing Self, Imagining the World
  • Ch. 6 Mobile Communication and Labor Politics
  • Conclusion: The Mobile Assemblage and Social Change in China

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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