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.
Autocracy Promotion in the New Asian Order?
Octavia Bryant and Mark Chou
African traders and the nondocumenting states
Based on ethnographic research in South China’s megacity Guangzhou, this article examines the gaps and contradictions in the central and local Chinese states’ efforts to regulate migrant traders from Africa. I identify economic interests, everyday racism, and ideological concerns as three major factors in shaping the nonrecording tactics of the Chinese states. The article argues that nonrecording is a practical tactic pursued by both the central and local states in order to balance multiple and conflicting interests at the regional, national, and international scales. Due to tensions between different levels of state authorities, China’s policies toward migrants from Africa are marked by sporadic shifts between recording, nonrecording, and derecording, which contribute to the illegibility of issues of immigration in state bureaucracy.
The Desiring Individual, Moralist Self and Relational Person
This article starts with a brief ethnography of the social actions in which Chinese personhood is constructed and then proposes a tripartite approach to help make sense of personhood as both a state of being and the action of doing. In the process of doing personhood, the reflective and ethical self is consistently mobilized and employed to fight against embodied, individuated desires for the purpose of making a proper relational person who is both social and agentive. This interactive cycle among the individual, self and person in the construction of Chinese personhood manifests itself repeatedly in a lifelong process of becoming, marked by earned recognitions, instead of a clearly defined structure of being that is endorsed by a set of natural rights. Chinese personhood, therefore, is inherently dynamic.
Conflicts over rural land expropriation, which have intensified over the past decade in China, pose a significant threat to the country's social stability and the sustainability of its economic development. This article argues that such conflicts are inevitable under China's current political and legal system. After a brief introduction of the present situation in China and an overview of China's land regime, the article first analyzes reasons for the escalation of land conflicts, including the vague definition of public interest, the inadequate compensation, and the ambiguous nature of collective land ownership. It then argues that even the few existing rights of rural peasants under the present land regime are not adequately protected due to China's poor law enforcement. The article further elucidates that impunity with regard to illegal land grabbing is common in China for a variety of reasons that all have roots in the Communist Party's monopoly over Chinese society. With no fundamental reform to China's party politics, the article concludes, there will be no effective measure to prevent further conflicts over land in the near future.
A Comparison of Okvik/Old Bering Sea and Liangzhu Ritual Art
One of the central decorative features of the Okvik/Old Bering Sea (OBS) Eskimo art is a theriomorphic design with an eyelike circle-dot motif. Seventy-five years ago, Henry B. Collins proposed the resemblance between OBS animal motifs and the Taotie (or t'ao t'ieh) faces on Chinese Shang and Zhou bronze wares. However, today his conclusion is based on outdated archaeological data. New evidence in recent decades indicates that the Chinese Bronze Age Taotie originated from mask-like imagery on jade objects of the Liangzhu Neolithic culture, third millennium BC in the Lower Yangtze River region. Comparative studies suggest more similarities in artistic designs between Okvik/OBS and Liangzhu jade than between Okvik/OBS culture and the Shang/Zhou Bronze Age cultures. The prototype theriomorphic design in Okvik/OBS Eskimo art, therefore, may originate from Liangzhu rather than from Shang and Zhou.
Through an ethnographic study of Indian traders in Keqiao, a municipal Chinese district in Zhejiang Province where China’s largest fabric trade market is located, this article seeks to unpack the ways in which negative stereotypes of Indian traders in China have been historically sustained, culturally represented and, to a significant degree, socially tolerated and justified in a local Chinese market. By invoking the notion of ‘everyday diplomacy’, it illustrates the ways in which the diplomatic capabilities of the Indian traders – a group often denounced in the city for having questionable business ethics - are incorporated into the commonly-held ‘evil Indian’ image. It also considers why, despite such condemnation, these Indians continue to be recognized, albeit reluctantly, as potential business partners by most Chinese suppliers in Keqiao.
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.
A Study in Social Cohesion
This article examines willingness to join China's emerging green movement through an analysis of data from the China General Social Survey of 2006. A question asked about environmental NGO membership shows that while only 1 percent of respondents claim to be members of an environmental NGO, more than three-fifths say they would like to join one in future if there is an opportunity, slightly less than one-fifth reject the idea and the remainder are “don't knows.” The article tests explanations of willingness to join based on instrumentality, ideology, social identity and social capital networks. It finds that instrumental considerations dominate, although ideology, identity and networks contribute incrementally. The conclusion considers the usefulness of willingness to join as an indicator of social cohesion within the framework of a wider effort to evaluate social quality.
Kang Hu and Raymond K. H. Chan
Promoting civic engagement could be a way of strengthening the social solidarity of China's urban population. The drastic socio-economic changes resulting from recent economic reform are likely to have a deleterious effect on social solidarity. Based on a survey conducted in 2010 in the Southern China city of Xiamen, this paper examines a specific form of civic engagement - citizen cooperation - to resolve community problems, and assesses its relationship with social capital. The study reveals that discrepancies in the level of civic engagement exist among urban residents and that inequality of social capital plays a significant role in these discrepancies. The findings suggest that such gaps could be addressed by increasing social capital, especially by expanding residents' personal community networks.
Catherine E. Clark
This article looks at two seemingly disparate events: Georges Pompidou’s 1973 presidential visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the filming and release of Jean Yanne’s blockbuster comedy Les Chinois à Paris (1974). Both produced flawed visions of Franco-Chinese relations. During Pompidou’s visit, officials and the press attempted to demonstrate that France enjoyed warmer relations with the PRC than any other Western nation. Yanne’s film parodied the French fad for Maoism by imagining the People’s Liberation Army invading and occupying Paris. His film caused an uproar in the press and sparked official Chinese protest. The article ultimately argues that the two events were deeply related, part of a wave of popular and official interest in China in the early 1970s that extended well beyond the well-known stories of student and intellectual Maoists. This interest paved the way for Franco-Chinese relations as we know them today.