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China’s New Silk Road

Autocracy Promotion in the New Asian Order?

Octavia Bryant and Mark Chou

Does China’s vision for a New Silk Road constitute autocracy promotion? This critical commentary argues that while China may currently be showing no signs of promoting autocracy strictly defined, its broad-ranging economic, political, and cultural initiatives along its New Silk Road will likely influence how foreign governments and everyday people think and act. Though still in its infancy, the New Silk Road represents an ambitious new geopolitical project that may require scholars and analysts to rethink both the thesis and concept of autocracy promotion in the years ahead.

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Naomi C.F. Yamada

In both China and in the United States, policies of 'positive discrimination' were originally intended to lessen educational and economic inequalities, and to provide equal opportunities. As with affirmative action in the American context, China's 'preferential policies' are broad-reaching, but are best known for taking ethnic background into consideration for university admissions. The rhetoric of China's preferential policy discourse has remained surprisingly constant but shifts to a market-economy and incorporation of neoliberal elements have resulted in fee-based reforms that discourage inclusion of poorer students. In addition, as ethnic minority students principally from Western China compete to enter 'self-funded' college preparatory programmes, public funding is being directed towards the achievement of 'world-class' universities overwhelmingly concentrated in Eastern China. In contrast, in the United States, the difficulty of defending affirmative action in the face of a neoliberal climate has resulted in a shift in policy. If in China the policy remains even as the 'rule' has changed (Arno 2009), in contrast, in American institutions the rhetoric has shifted away from affirmative action in favour of diversity but efforts to hold on to the rules that promote equal opportunities remain.

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Nicholas F. Russell

China inspired and invigorated the thinkers and policymakers behind the European enlightenment, but the extent and contours of the Chinese influence remain poorly understood. This article remedies this situation by delineating and evaluating major appearances of China in a Spanish newspaper, the Diario de Madrid, the capital’s official daily. Specifically, the article analyzes the Spanish accounts of two Dutch ambassadors to China, as well as a “Description of China” that takes into account multiple sources. Both accounts were prepared by an English observer and publisher, Thomas Astley, and later translated into French and from the French into Spanish. Taken together, these accounts show the diversity of sources on China as well as the eagerness with which Europeans apprehended new knowledge about the Middle Kingdom. There was also an underlying political message, in support of absolutism, which threw fuel onto the raging debate about the appropriate bounds of monarchical powers.

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Peiliao

Gender, Psychologization, and Psychological Labor in China

Jie Yang

This article examines the psychologization trend in China by analyzing peiliao (companion to chat), a 'profession' promoted among laid-off women workers since the mid-1990s. Unlike other psychological caregivers who empathize or sympathize through imagining the situation of another who suffers, job counselors encourage those who become peiliao to invoke their direct experience of unemployment in their current care work. Such job training not only reinscribes these women's pain, but also naturalizes their psychological labor as part of their moral virtue, which downplays its social and economic value. The article suggests that peiliao and other psychologizing processes in China, rather than depoliticizing social struggle, constitute a new arena for politics in which marginalized women's psychological labor is exploited both to advance market development and to enact the therapeutic ethos of the ruling party.

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Wenyi Zhang and F.K.L. Chit Hlaing

This article outlines three historical transitions in Kachin chieftaincy in Burma and China. Picking up where the three main theoretical models in the literature leave off (the models of Leach, Nugent and Friedman), we put forward an analysis of Kachin sociopolitical organization using new China-based material. We compare this with Burma-based material in the literature, and re-analyse the interactions between the internal dynamics of Kachin chieftaincy and the politico-economic systems in Southwestern China and Northern Burma. We argue that Kachin chieftaincy in Burma and in China shared the same logic, although this logic was manifested differently in the two countries. We offer new material for understanding the lowland polities and upland chieftaincy in Southwestern China and mainland Southeast Asia.

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Kevin Carrico

How can we as educators address complex and controversial topics in the social sciences without encouraging simplistic responses and self-reproducing binary oppositions? Drawing upon an ethnographic analysis of a first-year writing seminar on the history of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, this article proposes novel approaches to overcome instinctive reactions to contentious topics. Arguing that the experience of controversy produces self-reinforcing binary oppositions that become autopoetically abstracted from the actual topic of discussion, I build upon specific seminar experiences to propose two novel and practical concepts for the pedagogy of controversy: (1) deidentification, which refers to a process of disengagement from the binaries and thus identities that structure and reproduce controversy, and (2) humanisation, which refers to a process of moving beyond abstractions to reidentify with the fundamentally human experience of contentious historical moments. The pedagogy of controversy, I argue, must teach against our conventional identificatory responses to controversy to promote a more nuanced understanding of inherently complex issues.

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Xu Yanhui and Gong Ziyu

Poverty is generally viewed in traditional understandings as merely lowness of income, so its noneconomic aspects and dynamic characteristics are neglected. Conversely, Amartya Sen has argued that poverty must be seen as the deprivation of basic capabilities—the substantive freedoms a person enjoys to lead the kind of life they have reason to value. Based on Sen’s capability poverty theory, this article examines the influence of social quality and community capacity on Chinese urban residents’ capability poverty. The social quality perspective assesses societal progress and refers to four conditional factors: socioeconomic security, social inclusion, social cohesion, and social empowerment. Our data analysis from a survey undertaken in Shenzhen indicates that socioeconomic security, social cohesion, and social empowerment can effectively alleviate capability poverty. Community capacity was also an influential factor for capability poverty of urban residents. According to these findings, future anti-poverty projects should focus on improving social quality and community capacity.

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'Father Mao' and the Country-Family

Mixed Feelings for Fathers, Officials, and Leaders in China

Hans Steinmüller

What does it mean when Mao Zedong is called 'Father Mao' and when ordinary people in central China put a poster of Mao in the place of their ancestors and the emperor? This article analyzes ordinary affection for the Chinese state and explores changing ideas of the leader as a father and the country as a family. The first part deals with the historical transformation of these metaphors from the late Qing dynasty to the Communist Revolution and Maoism, describing the vernacularization and sentimentalization of the 'Confucian order of the father/son' in twentieth-century China. Against this historical background and based on fieldwork material from central China, the second part deals with the 'mixed feelings' that people in the present day now have for fathers at home, for local officials, and for national leaders.

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Cycles of Cathay

A History of the Bicycle in China

Edward J.M. Rhoads

Introduced into China in the late nineteenth century, the bicycle had to compete with a variety of alternative modes of personal transportation that for a number of years limited its appeal and utility. Thus, during the 1920s and 1930s it took a back seat to the hand-pulled rickshaw and during the 1940s to the pedicab (cycle rickshaw). It was only in the 1950s that the bicycle became the primary means of transportation for most urban Chinese. For the next four decades, as its use spread from the city to the countryside, China was the iconic “bicycle kingdom.“ Since the 1990s, however, the pedal-powered bicycle has been overtaken by the automobile (and motorcycle). Nevertheless, with the recent appearance and growing popularity of the e-bike, the bicycle may yet play an important role in China's transport modal mix. This overview history of the bicycle in China is based on a wide range of textual sources in English and Chinese as well as pictorial images.

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Is the Kingdom of Bicycles Rising Again?

Cycling, Gender, and Class in Postsocialist China

Hilda Rømer Christensen

This article focuses on new types of cycling in postsocialist China, especially mountain and sports biking, and on the particular entanglements of gender and class brought with them. The shift in mobility and biking from the Mao era to the postsocialist China is analyzed in the contexts of cultural-analytical notions of global assemblages and gendered interpellations. Based on Chinese newspaper materials and fieldwork in Beijing and Shanghai, the article examines the social and gendered implications of the new biking cultures. These new biking practices mainly interpellate new middle-class men and masculinities as part of an exclusive leisure culture. If the “Kingdom of the Bicycles” is going to rise again, there is a need for a broader scope that addresses access for all, including women and families, as smart bikers, as well as biking as a daily mode of transportation.