Journalist Howard French documented in his much praised Shanghai photographs a fast changing society. Evan Osnos of the New Yorker interviewed French on his “Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life“.
In your notes, you write about the “dreams of prosperity.” How are those dreams changing in China?
The dream has indeed changed in vital ways. Money and opportunity are still very big parts of what drives urbanization in China, and I think the poor and the weak must still pay enormous costs to achieve prosperity. When I first arrived in Shanghai, in 2003, there were still frequent roundups of improperly documented migrants, meaning people without a Shanghai residence permit. They were put on trains and buses and sent back to their provinces, and sometimes, if they were caught two or three times coming back to the big city, they were fined and detained and treated harshly. That sort of thing is almost unheard of now. Something bigger has changed, though, and will continue to change. Perhaps it is the biggest source of change in China overall. To be specific, that is the spreading and deepening of the notion of citizenship. Even the most ordinary city-dweller has begun to think in new ways about what he assumes to be his rights. The earlier migrants, and indeed most Chinese until a fairly recent point in time, lived more or less as subjects. Now people are quick to complain in terms of rights and injustice, and they invoke the law and band together, albeit loosely, on this basis. It would seem to me that a trend like this can only grow, especially given the exploding availability of information and universal means of communication, beginning with the cell phone.
Howard French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.
How is Google+ doing in China? According to the latest figures the number of Google+ users increased from 0.9% to 3.6% of its internet users. Still pretty low compared to other countries, but growing. On Thursday 29 November the China Weekly Hangout will hold an open-door meeting to discuss the current situation of Google+ in China. You can read more here, or register at our event page here. Or you can join us at both pages on 10pm Beijing time, 3pm CET (Europe) or 9pm EST (US/Canada)
- Uyghur: very little impact on US agenda – Howard French (chinaherald.net)
- Shanghai uses changed policies for foreign investments – Mark Schaub (chinaherald.net)
- Fast food chains try to take on Chinese breakfast – Paul French (chinaspeakersbureau.info)