In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

77 4 The Usefulness of Mobility Producing Modern Citizens T he preceding chapters have demonstrated the rise of different forms of population mobility in post-1978 China. This chapter examines how interpretations of this newfound mobility have changed in the light of prevalent Chinese views on modernization and development, issues at the heart of official, popular, public, and private concerns for the past three decades.1 While the original “four modernizations” put forward by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 referred to the modernization of agriculture , industry, national defense, and science and technology, the idea that China had to modernize its people’s thinking and way of life—popular with reformers since the late Qing—was quickly picked up by the Deng and post-Deng leadership and became a truism variously expressed in discourses about “population quality” and “spiritual civilization.” As the deputy chairman of the Hebei Province People’s Congress wrote in 2006, Man is the most flexible of the factors of production, and man’s quality has a major impact on the speed and quality of economic and social development . . . . In fact, economic and technological competition [between countries ] is nothing but the competition of human resources (rencai). (Zhang Qunsheng 2006) A number of authors have pointed out that the Chinese government’s concern with population “quality” is tied to the state’s drive to create modern consumer-citizens (Anagnost 1997; Yan Hairong 2003; Friedman 2004; Murphy 2004; Woronov 2004). Certainly, the ideal of the modern subject in contemporary China is linked to productiveness and consumption , but the discourse of “quality” is both broader and more complex (Kipnis 2006). To pick a random quote from a 1999 conference on “leisure culture”: Our country’s socialist modernization should include man’s modernization . The modern man must have a modern mentality (sixiang yishi), modern way of thinking, modern morals and self-cultivation, and in addition, he must have modernized scientific knowledge and technological skills; furthermore, he must live a civilized, healthy, scientific lifestyle. (Sun and Lei 1999:123) The imperatives for modernizing people charted in Shen Pinghua’s Remaking the Chinese (1996) are broader still. They include implementing stricter eugenic policies to prevent racial degeneration—current population planning policies, he feels, provide “too much scope for those of lower quality to reproduce”—a tighter control over culture to defend it from “feudal and foreign vulgarities” (Sun and Lei 1999), and an insistence on the morality of struggle (Song and Sigley 2000:60). For Peking University leisure studies professor Sun Xiaoli, the modern personality possesses attributes like openness, orientation toward the future, respect for science and friendliness, environmental consciousness, and a respect for time and planning. According to Sun, such a personality is achieved through both eugenics—a long-standing concern of the Chinese state (Dikötter 2005)—and a “scientific view of consumption” (as opposed to “Mammon worship and hedonism”) (Sun Xiaoli 2004). In the words of yet another scholar, “modernization of the person requires the modernization of lifestyle, of behavior and habits, as well as of thought and ideas” The Usefulness of Mobility 79 (Fu Tengxiao 2003:64). As we will see below, various forms of mobility are linked not only to economic modernization but also to developing the attributes of the modern person. Peasants into Chinese In Flexible Citizenship (1999), Aihwa Ong argues that international mobility, the juggling of locations in which to make money, educate one’s children, and take advantage of the benefits of a retired life, is a component of the modern self-image of the peripatetic Hong Kong business elite. She traces this imaginary of the “globally modern Asian” back to the “Rimspeak” of Western business schools and authors fascinated by the rise of tiger economies, to the political exigencies of Hong Kong’s colonial history, and to the neoliberal American model of the ideal, productive citizen in late capitalism. A number of authors, including Rachel Murphy (2002, 2004) and Yan Hairong (2003), have pointed out how this same logic of flexible capitalism has resulted in the valorization of domestic migration in China as an activity that turns, to use a variation on Eugene Weber’s (1976) phrase, “peasants into citizens,” making them more productive and better attuned to the needs of a modern market economy, and therefore more aligned with the expectations of the modernizing state.2 The State Council, the highest executive body of the Chinese state, affirmed in a 2003 document that “the migration of surplus rural labour to nonagricultural production and to towns...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.