Chen Ruiyan, “Why is it So Hard for Farmers to Build Houses?”
Introduction by David Ownby
Chen Ruiyan is a doctoral candidate in the China Rural Governance Research Center at Wuhan University, and has recently been engaged in fieldwork on the problem of home construction in wealthy villages in Zhejiang. She penned the text translated here in response to a grisly murder growing out of a housing dispute in Fujian.
On October 10, 2021, a farmer named Ou Jinzhong, from Putian, Fujian, hacked to death two of his neighbors and injured three others because of a long-standing quarrel between Ou and neighboring families that had prevented him from building a new home, which meant that he had been living in a tin shack for some years—next to the much flashier homes of the neighbors. Ou subsequently committed suicide to avoid being arrested by authorities.
Introduction by Hannah Wang
On September 19, 2020, a netizen posted on social media that JNBY, an international Chinese clothing design brand, was selling children's clothing with inappropriate messages and images. Some themes were “hellish”—messages like "welcome to hell" (in English) and various pictures of “fire and brimstone.” The netizen also included pictures of children’s clothing with the message "let me touch you" and another with the design of a strange creature holding a saw to be used to cut a leg.
Two days later, the official account of JNBY Children's Clothing made a public statement. They apologized for the inappropriate messages and on children's clothing products, and said that they had removed offending products from the shelves. They promised to take this event as a warning and strictly verify their products to prevent such incidents from happening again. We might note that they only sent their official apology after being criticized for their original reply to the complaining netizen, in which they informed him that he could apply for a refund.
Introduction and Translation by David Ownby
Li Qiang (b. 1950) is a well known sociologist at Tsinghua University in Beijing, specializing in issues of social stratification. One of Li’s book-length studies of the topic is available in English. His very impressive CV (in Chinese) is available here.
In the text translated here, Li offers an overview of the structural changes in Chinese society occurring since the turn of the 21st century. The text is clearly written, with little academic jargon (although there are a few graphs and figures, which I did not reproduce), and is meant to convey to his readers precisely where Chinese society is in terms of the great transition brought about by the period of reform and opening, now entering its fifth decade. There is an urgency to Li’s text, prompted by concerns—especially among China’s youth—that China’s miracle is running out of steam (see texts on this site related to “lying flat” and the “melancholy strain” of Chinese youth culture), and by the central authorities’ discussions of the theme of “common prosperity” over the past few months. “Common prosperity” is often presented as part of Xi Jinping’s agenda, the next step following the elimination of absolute poverty, an achievement which the regime celebrated last year. Discussions of common prosperity have been accompanied by efforts to rein in the high-tech sector—or at least high-flying high-tech entrepreneurs—as well as other gestures that have targeted certain near-monopolies in the platform economy, as well as celebrities of various stripes. These gestures have led many—in China and elsewhere—whether the regime is lurching to the left or perhaps indulging in what might be seen as dangerous populist gestures.