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In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis (review)

In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis (review) Reviews 179 Verteidigung gegen europäische Ideen (China'sdefenseagainstEuropeanideas). Wilhelmchangedthetitlecompletely,becauseheaddedachapterfromanother bookbyGu,Papers from a Viceroy's Yamen(1901). GuHongmingshowshimselfbitterlyopposedtothereformers,especiallyLi Hongchang,whomhecreditswiththelossofChinesecultureandeverything beautifulinChina(seethetwelfthletter,themostsubstantialone).Anotherof Gu'sscapegoatsisPresidentYuanShihKai,whobetrayedthelastemperor,and underwhoseguidance,Gufelt,themoralityofthemassesdegenerated.Mostof thelettersmerelyrelatetoexchangeofbooksandsoforth. Themostvaluablepartsofthecollectionarethebibliographicalparts,which are,ofcourse,alsoaccessibletoEnglishreaders.Thecompositionofthewhole bookis,however,somewhatarbitrary.Whythesparsebiographicaldataandthis specificselectionofletterswasincludedinthecollectionremainsunclear.Wewill havetowaitforafuturebiographyofRichardWilhelm,whichwillmakeuseof thiscollection. KarelL.vanderLeeuw Karel L. van der Leeuw is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Amsterdam with a specialization in Asian philosophy. NOTEs 1. AcompletebiographybyUrsulaBallinisobviouslyintheworks. 2. SalomeWilhelm,ed.,Richard Wilhelm, der geistige Mittler zwischen China und Europa (RichardWilhelm,spiritualmediatorbetweenChinaandEurope).M.E.Einl,V.Walter,and F. Otto(Düsseldorf:EugenDiederichs,1956). LiZhang.In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis.Ithaca,NY:CornellUniversityPress,2010.xiv,248 pp. Hardcover$79.95,isbn978-0-8014-4833-1.Paperback$23.95, isbn978-0-8014-7562-7. Overthepasttwodecades,fewchangesinChinahavehadamoredramaticimpact onurbanlifethantheprivatizationofhousing.Untilthe1990s,mosturbanresidentsworkedinstate-ownedfactoriesandlivedinnearbycompany-ownedhousing.Theycouldeasilywalk,bike,ortakeinexpensivepublictransportationfrom hometoworkandback.However,inplaceofsuchmixed-usedevelopment,where peopleliveandworkinthesameneighborhood,citycentersacrossChinaare © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 180 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 beingrazedandrebuiltintocentralbusinessdistricts(CBDs)ofgleamingoffice skyscrapers.Bothaffordablehousingandupscalegatedcommunitiesarebeing pushedtotheoutskirts.NowChinahasoneofthehighestprivatehomeownership ratesintheworld.Asstate-ownedenterpriseswereclosed,soldoff,orrelocatedto thesuburbs,workplacesbecamelessaccessible.Alongtheway,privatelyowned carshavebeguntomovefromunheardofluxuriestonecessities,atransitionthat culminatedin2009,whenChinasurpassedtheUnitedStatesasthelargestcar market.Inshort,theemergenceofavastmarketforhousingissimplyapartof manysimultaneousandreinforcingchanges,eachchangehavingitsownwiderangingeffects. LiZhang'sbookcapturesthecomplexityandimportance--socialand e conomic--oftheprivatizationofurbanhousing.Ofcourse,thecountryisnot simplyprivatizingbutalsobuildingmorehousingwithstaggeringspeed.When privatizationbeganintheearly1990s,Chinahadsome27millionsquaremetersof residentialbuildings.Thisamounthasdoubledinonlytwentyyearsto55million squaremeters.Likewise,thenumberofpeopleemployedintherealestateindustry hasdoubledtooveroneandahalfmillion.Unsurprisingly,propertyisnowthe largestsectoroftheChineseeconomy.Abiggerwonderiswhyithastakenuntil nowtohaveafull-lengthacademicstudyofthemultifariousimplicationsofthis dramaticchange. Zhang'sstudywasworththewait.HerfocusisthegatedcommunitiesspringingupinandaroundKunming,theprovincialcapitalofthesouthwesternprovinceofYunnan,acitywithover6millioninhabitants.Hereisamplegroundforan urbananthropologist.Zhangshowsthatnotonlyaremorenewbuildingsbeing erectedandoccupationsbeingcreated.AdramaticshiftinthewayurbanChinese leadtheirlivesisalsoapparent,ashift,aboveall,fromthecollectivistaspirations forasocialistutopiaintheMaoeratothequesttobuyanddefendone'sown "privateparadise"(geren tiantang).Inherhands,housingbecomesagatewayto manykeytopicsinpostsocialisturbanlife:thecreationofanewhomeowner/ consumerpolitics,theprivatizationofcommunitymaintenanceintheformofthe dozensofguardspatrollinghousingcomplexes,andthetransformationofChina fromoneofthemostegalitariantooneofthemosteconomicallyunequalsocieties intheworld.Sheinsightfullyshows,forinstance,howtheshiftfromcollective goalstoprivateinterestsdoesnotmeanthecompletedeathofpoliticalengagementbutratheritstransferintostrugglesbetweenhomeownersandpowerful developers.Shelabelsthisstrugglea"doublemovement"--seekingaprivatized goodlifeinhomeownershipwhileneedingtoengageinrightsandjusticeadvocacytoprotectthatnewlife.Staytuned.Thisrightsadvocacyhasgreatlyexpanded sincethepassageofthe2007nationalpropertylaw. In Search of Paradiseaddsterrificspecificitytotheunderstandingofwhy scholarsofChinaoftenavoidnon-expertswhoaskwhetherChinaissocialistor capitalist.Avaluablechapteron"unlockingtherealestatemachine"revealsthe Reviews 181 complexandambiguousinterlockingrelationshipbetweenthestateandcapitalism,particularlytheimportanceofthepoliticalconnectionsunderlyingthe "pro-growthcoalition"betweendevelopersandthelocalofficialsrunningcities acrossChina.Thepicturethatemergesisascomplicatedasmanysuspected.Now weknowwhy.Theauthor'sworkrevealsthatmanycompaniespopularlyperceived asprivateareoftenonlypartiallyprivate.Untiltheendofthetwentiethcentury, almostallthemajordeveloperswereactuallystate-ownedenterprises(SOEs). Thesedeveloperswereestablishedbylocaldistrictgovernmentsbutoperated alongmodelsofaprivateenterprisewithmorepowertohireandpromote,the abilitytouseincentivestoincreaseproductivity,andtheabilitytocultivatea for-profitethos. WhenZhangaskedoneofhersources,aMr.Lu,tocharacterizearemodeling companyaffiliatedwithoneofthemajordistrict-levelSOEsbehindKunming's propertydevelopment,hetoldher,"Idonotcarewhetheritisstateorprivateand Ihonestlydonotknowhowtoclassifyit"(p.55).Lusuppliedalonglistofbenefits ofhiscompany'stiestoalargeSOE:betteraccesstocapital,increasedlikelihoodof winningcompetitivebids,andprotectionagainstotherwiseintrusivebureaucrats. Atothertimes,suchquasi-privatecompaniesalsomimicsomeofthepracticesofa traditionalSOEs,rightdowntomaintainingfilesonemployeebackgroundsand behaviorand,perhapsmostsurprisingofall,havingbranchesoftheCommunist Partyheadedbythemanagers.Gonearethedaysofclassstrugglesessionsofthe Maoistera.However,asonemanager/partybossinformedZhangwithoutahint of irony,theCCP"helpsthecompanytooverseeandregulateworkersbetter" (p. 58). ThebookalsohasmuchtosayaboutthegrowthofinequalityinChina.Gone arethedanwei(workunits)withtheirpublichousinganddispersalofsocial classesthateasilyhidinequality.Nowitisclearwherethenewmiddleclasseslive. Behindallofthischangeisthemassprivatizationofstateandpublicproperty, whichhasenabledthecreationofvastfortunes.Inequalityfromthesocialistera stillcontinues.Underthedanweisystem,state-provisionedhousingwasakey incentivefordesiringworkindanweiwithrichhousingstock.Indeed,attimes housingincentiveswereevenmoreofadrawthanwages,creatingsocialhierarchiesandresentmentsdespitetheegalitarianrhetoricofthetimes.Nordidthese inequalitiesendwiththereformsofthe1990s.Instead,thoseindividualswho benefitedfromearlierhousingallotmentsrolledovertheirbenefitswhenthe danweihousingwasprivatized,helpingreproducesuchinequalitiesinthepostsocialistera. Thebookishighlycriticalofthenotionthatmiddle-classChinaislargeand rapidlyexpanding.Italsoaddsinsightsintotheprecariouspositionoftheemergentmiddleclass.ManymembersoftheChinesemiddleclassesarebeneficiaries ofreform-erapolicies,buttheyarealsovulnerabletoitsexcesses,particularlythe powerofthepropertydevelopersinaneraofbothprivatizedpropertyandpriva- 182 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 tizedpower.Ratherthancentralstateedicts,citizenswhoownpropertynowhave tocontendwithpropertydevelopersinchargeofadministeringresidentialcommunities.Theimplicationsgobeyondcreatinghousingcommunityactiviststo fightagainstdevelopers.Zhangshowshowtheemergenceofpropertymarkets-- andanurbancultureobsessedwiththehousingmarket--createsanewemphasis onindividualsembodiedintheexpression"relyonone'sself "(kao ziji),whereinit istheindividual'schargetoadvancehisorherinterests,tomakemoney,tochoose wheretolive,todecidewhentochangejobs,and,aboveall,topracticeself-control ratherthanlooktothestate.Moreover,Zhangconvincinglyargues,theproper managementoftheseindividualresponsibilitiesisemblematicofanewmiddleclassstatusandtherighttooccupysuchasocialposition.Forinstance,whereas therewaslittleincentivetomaintain,lessimprove,danweihousingstock,nowitis theindividual'sresponsibilitytofinishthelaststagesofahouseorapartment, decorate,andconfirmone'smiddle-classtastesandstatus. Arichrangeofsourcesensuresthoroughcoverage.Zhangconductedfifteen monthsoffieldworkspreadoversevenyears,drawingonpersonalcontactsfroma lifetimespentgrowingupinKunmingandfromyearlyreturnvisits.Asaresult, readersgetafullpictureofthoseinvolvedwithhousing,including,ofcourse,the migrantlabormusclebehindtheconstructionwork,themenwhooftenendure conditionssimilartothoseoftheirfemalecounterpartsworkinginfactories:low wages,unsafeworkingconditions,longhours,fewbenefits,lackofjobsecurity, andanotoriouslydifficulttimegettingpaidontime(orpaidatall).Theinclusion http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis (review)

China Review International , Volume 17 (1) – Mar 1, 2010

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Abstract

Reviews 179 Verteidigung gegen europäische Ideen (China'sdefenseagainstEuropeanideas). Wilhelmchangedthetitlecompletely,becauseheaddedachapterfromanother bookbyGu,Papers from a Viceroy's Yamen(1901). GuHongmingshowshimselfbitterlyopposedtothereformers,especiallyLi Hongchang,whomhecreditswiththelossofChinesecultureandeverything beautifulinChina(seethetwelfthletter,themostsubstantialone).Anotherof Gu'sscapegoatsisPresidentYuanShihKai,whobetrayedthelastemperor,and underwhoseguidance,Gufelt,themoralityofthemassesdegenerated.Mostof thelettersmerelyrelatetoexchangeofbooksandsoforth. Themostvaluablepartsofthecollectionarethebibliographicalparts,which are,ofcourse,alsoaccessibletoEnglishreaders.Thecompositionofthewhole bookis,however,somewhatarbitrary.Whythesparsebiographicaldataandthis specificselectionofletterswasincludedinthecollectionremainsunclear.Wewill havetowaitforafuturebiographyofRichardWilhelm,whichwillmakeuseof thiscollection. KarelL.vanderLeeuw Karel L. van der Leeuw is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Amsterdam with a specialization in Asian philosophy. NOTEs 1. AcompletebiographybyUrsulaBallinisobviouslyintheworks. 2. SalomeWilhelm,ed.,Richard Wilhelm, der geistige Mittler zwischen China und Europa (RichardWilhelm,spiritualmediatorbetweenChinaandEurope).M.E.Einl,V.Walter,and F. Otto(Düsseldorf:EugenDiederichs,1956). LiZhang.In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis.Ithaca,NY:CornellUniversityPress,2010.xiv,248 pp. Hardcover$79.95,isbn978-0-8014-4833-1.Paperback$23.95, isbn978-0-8014-7562-7. Overthepasttwodecades,fewchangesinChinahavehadamoredramaticimpact onurbanlifethantheprivatizationofhousing.Untilthe1990s,mosturbanresidentsworkedinstate-ownedfactoriesandlivedinnearbycompany-ownedhousing.Theycouldeasilywalk,bike,ortakeinexpensivepublictransportationfrom hometoworkandback.However,inplaceofsuchmixed-usedevelopment,where peopleliveandworkinthesameneighborhood,citycentersacrossChinaare © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 180 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 beingrazedandrebuiltintocentralbusinessdistricts(CBDs)ofgleamingoffice skyscrapers.Bothaffordablehousingandupscalegatedcommunitiesarebeing pushedtotheoutskirts.NowChinahasoneofthehighestprivatehomeownership ratesintheworld.Asstate-ownedenterpriseswereclosed,soldoff,orrelocatedto thesuburbs,workplacesbecamelessaccessible.Alongtheway,privatelyowned carshavebeguntomovefromunheardofluxuriestonecessities,atransitionthat culminatedin2009,whenChinasurpassedtheUnitedStatesasthelargestcar market.Inshort,theemergenceofavastmarketforhousingissimplyapartof manysimultaneousandreinforcingchanges,eachchangehavingitsownwiderangingeffects. LiZhang'sbookcapturesthecomplexityandimportance--socialand e conomic--oftheprivatizationofurbanhousing.Ofcourse,thecountryisnot simplyprivatizingbutalsobuildingmorehousingwithstaggeringspeed.When privatizationbeganintheearly1990s,Chinahadsome27millionsquaremetersof residentialbuildings.Thisamounthasdoubledinonlytwentyyearsto55million squaremeters.Likewise,thenumberofpeopleemployedintherealestateindustry hasdoubledtooveroneandahalfmillion.Unsurprisingly,propertyisnowthe largestsectoroftheChineseeconomy.Abiggerwonderiswhyithastakenuntil nowtohaveafull-lengthacademicstudyofthemultifariousimplicationsofthis dramaticchange. Zhang'sstudywasworththewait.HerfocusisthegatedcommunitiesspringingupinandaroundKunming,theprovincialcapitalofthesouthwesternprovinceofYunnan,acitywithover6millioninhabitants.Hereisamplegroundforan urbananthropologist.Zhangshowsthatnotonlyaremorenewbuildingsbeing erectedandoccupationsbeingcreated.AdramaticshiftinthewayurbanChinese leadtheirlivesisalsoapparent,ashift,aboveall,fromthecollectivistaspirations forasocialistutopiaintheMaoeratothequesttobuyanddefendone'sown "privateparadise"(geren tiantang).Inherhands,housingbecomesagatewayto manykeytopicsinpostsocialisturbanlife:thecreationofanewhomeowner/ consumerpolitics,theprivatizationofcommunitymaintenanceintheformofthe dozensofguardspatrollinghousingcomplexes,andthetransformationofChina fromoneofthemostegalitariantooneofthemosteconomicallyunequalsocieties intheworld.Sheinsightfullyshows,forinstance,howtheshiftfromcollective goalstoprivateinterestsdoesnotmeanthecompletedeathofpoliticalengagementbutratheritstransferintostrugglesbetweenhomeownersandpowerful developers.Shelabelsthisstrugglea"doublemovement"--seekingaprivatized goodlifeinhomeownershipwhileneedingtoengageinrightsandjusticeadvocacytoprotectthatnewlife.Staytuned.Thisrightsadvocacyhasgreatlyexpanded sincethepassageofthe2007nationalpropertylaw. In Search of Paradiseaddsterrificspecificitytotheunderstandingofwhy scholarsofChinaoftenavoidnon-expertswhoaskwhetherChinaissocialistor capitalist.Avaluablechapteron"unlockingtherealestatemachine"revealsthe Reviews 181 complexandambiguousinterlockingrelationshipbetweenthestateandcapitalism,particularlytheimportanceofthepoliticalconnectionsunderlyingthe "pro-growthcoalition"betweendevelopersandthelocalofficialsrunningcities acrossChina.Thepicturethatemergesisascomplicatedasmanysuspected.Now weknowwhy.Theauthor'sworkrevealsthatmanycompaniespopularlyperceived asprivateareoftenonlypartiallyprivate.Untiltheendofthetwentiethcentury, almostallthemajordeveloperswereactuallystate-ownedenterprises(SOEs). Thesedeveloperswereestablishedbylocaldistrictgovernmentsbutoperated alongmodelsofaprivateenterprisewithmorepowertohireandpromote,the abilitytouseincentivestoincreaseproductivity,andtheabilitytocultivatea for-profitethos. WhenZhangaskedoneofhersources,aMr.Lu,tocharacterizearemodeling companyaffiliatedwithoneofthemajordistrict-levelSOEsbehindKunming's propertydevelopment,hetoldher,"Idonotcarewhetheritisstateorprivateand Ihonestlydonotknowhowtoclassifyit"(p.55).Lusuppliedalonglistofbenefits ofhiscompany'stiestoalargeSOE:betteraccesstocapital,increasedlikelihoodof winningcompetitivebids,andprotectionagainstotherwiseintrusivebureaucrats. Atothertimes,suchquasi-privatecompaniesalsomimicsomeofthepracticesofa traditionalSOEs,rightdowntomaintainingfilesonemployeebackgroundsand behaviorand,perhapsmostsurprisingofall,havingbranchesoftheCommunist Partyheadedbythemanagers.Gonearethedaysofclassstrugglesessionsofthe Maoistera.However,asonemanager/partybossinformedZhangwithoutahint of irony,theCCP"helpsthecompanytooverseeandregulateworkersbetter" (p. 58). ThebookalsohasmuchtosayaboutthegrowthofinequalityinChina.Gone arethedanwei(workunits)withtheirpublichousinganddispersalofsocial classesthateasilyhidinequality.Nowitisclearwherethenewmiddleclasseslive. Behindallofthischangeisthemassprivatizationofstateandpublicproperty, whichhasenabledthecreationofvastfortunes.Inequalityfromthesocialistera stillcontinues.Underthedanweisystem,state-provisionedhousingwasakey incentivefordesiringworkindanweiwithrichhousingstock.Indeed,attimes housingincentiveswereevenmoreofadrawthanwages,creatingsocialhierarchiesandresentmentsdespitetheegalitarianrhetoricofthetimes.Nordidthese inequalitiesendwiththereformsofthe1990s.Instead,thoseindividualswho benefitedfromearlierhousingallotmentsrolledovertheirbenefitswhenthe danweihousingwasprivatized,helpingreproducesuchinequalitiesinthepostsocialistera. Thebookishighlycriticalofthenotionthatmiddle-classChinaislargeand rapidlyexpanding.Italsoaddsinsightsintotheprecariouspositionoftheemergentmiddleclass.ManymembersoftheChinesemiddleclassesarebeneficiaries ofreform-erapolicies,buttheyarealsovulnerabletoitsexcesses,particularlythe powerofthepropertydevelopersinaneraofbothprivatizedpropertyandpriva- 182 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 tizedpower.Ratherthancentralstateedicts,citizenswhoownpropertynowhave tocontendwithpropertydevelopersinchargeofadministeringresidentialcommunities.Theimplicationsgobeyondcreatinghousingcommunityactiviststo fightagainstdevelopers.Zhangshowshowtheemergenceofpropertymarkets-- andanurbancultureobsessedwiththehousingmarket--createsanewemphasis onindividualsembodiedintheexpression"relyonone'sself "(kao ziji),whereinit istheindividual'schargetoadvancehisorherinterests,tomakemoney,tochoose wheretolive,todecidewhentochangejobs,and,aboveall,topracticeself-control ratherthanlooktothestate.Moreover,Zhangconvincinglyargues,theproper managementoftheseindividualresponsibilitiesisemblematicofanewmiddleclassstatusandtherighttooccupysuchasocialposition.Forinstance,whereas therewaslittleincentivetomaintain,lessimprove,danweihousingstock,nowitis theindividual'sresponsibilitytofinishthelaststagesofahouseorapartment, decorate,andconfirmone'smiddle-classtastesandstatus. Arichrangeofsourcesensuresthoroughcoverage.Zhangconductedfifteen monthsoffieldworkspreadoversevenyears,drawingonpersonalcontactsfroma lifetimespentgrowingupinKunmingandfromyearlyreturnvisits.Asaresult, readersgetafullpictureofthoseinvolvedwithhousing,including,ofcourse,the migrantlabormusclebehindtheconstructionwork,themenwhooftenendure conditionssimilartothoseoftheirfemalecounterpartsworkinginfactories:low wages,unsafeworkingconditions,longhours,fewbenefits,lackofjobsecurity, andanotoriouslydifficulttimegettingpaidontime(orpaidatall).Theinclusion

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China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 1, 2010

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