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167 Preface to Part Two Mohan J. Dutta C hina offers a unique vantage point for thinking about risk, as it negotiates both capitalism and communism, rapid development and a widening wealth gap, and urban growth and rural reform, revealing the interplays of power structures that construct narratives of markets and trade, goods and labor, and hazards and opportunities. For example, China’s economic growth success story, in which the country pulled record numbers of citizens out of poverty, was built on a heavy industrial base, leaving China with monumental air, earth, and water pollution, growing health needs, and continuing citizen concerns. The chapters in this section take up questions of how various discourses reimagine China as a nation and a global power in the face of these multiplying health risks. Moreover, these chapters address how discourses about China originating from outside of China interpenetrate with discourses originating from within China, illustrating how local, national, regional, and transnational arguments mutually influence each other. 168 Mohan J. Dutta The triumphant narratives of growth, development, and modernization so popular in China today depict the arrival of a new Asian hegemony, even as they erase other narratives of dispossession, displacement, environmental degradation, and inequality, all while replicating national representations of neoliberal governance. The symbolic enunciations of the nation-state are thus intertwined with the material inequalities that constitute Chinese modernity, with these discourses in turn wrapped up in competing regional and international arguments. In this way, the nation-state, expressing its affinities with global capital and simultaneously seeking to enact a Chinese identity attached to the rhetoric of communism, emerges as a site of innumerable new risks to individual and community health, well-being, and the broader ecology, or what the authors in this section of the book refer to as “ecologies of risk.” Considered together, the chapters in Part Two explore how symbolic enunciations of health and risk are constituted within global networks of power, how they are tied to the materiality of bodies and global flows, and how they are rooted in specific, local cultural situations. Here, the social construction of health and risk in China occurs within depictions of nation-states, which enact imaginaries of public health and risk preparedness that seek to control the pathways of disease, even while the government espouses rhetorics that champion aspirations for open economies and minimized resistance to the free exchange of goods, labor, and capital. The rhetorics of risk addressed in this section therefore oscillate within this tension between control and flow, between clamping down on disease circulation while accelerating the international exchange of goods. Analyzing this tension helps to explain how our anxieties about contamination across global sites of production and exchange form the backdrop for global narratives of health risks, illness, healing, and curing. Ecologies of risk are thus located amid the fragmented and disrupted global ecosystems that respond to the ever-expanding quest of capital to create new markets, find new sources of cheap and exploitable labor, and extract new raw materials to feed global capitalism. As these chapters indicate, the acceleration of global capitalism across specific parts of the planet engenders the multiplication of risks, both symbolic and material. To illustrate how ecologies of risk operate in contemporary China, these chapters address how health, capitalism, communism, materiality, Imagining Communities in the Age of Risk 169 symbols, and bodies converge in constituting risks and forming the politics of risky locations. In “China’s Fraught Food System: Imagining Ecological Civilization in the Face of Paradoxical Modernity,” Donovan S. Conley depicts the paradoxes that constitute the discourses and materialities of modernity in China, where, despite the tensions Conley addresses, the Communist Party of China (CPC or the Party) has built a celebratory narrative of communist development, historical progress, and national growth. In contrast to the Party’s one-dimensional rhetoric, Conley shows how risks to health are intertwined with risks to ecology, with both health and ecological risks being generated by the structures of large-scale development and modernization championed by the Party. Via interpretation of the everyday embodiments of risks and the policy articulations of the CPC, Conley argues that the Party’s support for modernization, progress, and development through large-scale industrialization and urbanization projects has led China to the brink of ecological disaster. Attending in particular to the risks to food systems that are posed by large-scale material structures of growth, Conley explores the paradoxes negotiated by Chinese civil society as it negotiates the consequences of rapid national...


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