Made in China 2 (2021)

Dear Colleagues,

I am glad to announce the publication of the latest issue of the Made in China Journal. You can download it for free at this link:

Below you can find the editorial:

Archaeologies of the Belt and Road Initiative

Since its announcement in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become the main lens through which both observers and stakeholders trace China’s global footprint. Whether cheered on as a new engine of economic development in a fraught and increasingly unequal world or frowned upon as a masterplan through which the Chinese authorities are attempting to establish global hegemony, the infrastructure component of the BRI has become such an important frame in discussions of Global China that less tangible aspects that are not in its purview tend to be lost or overlooked. One of these neglected dimensions is China’s long history of international engagement aimed at building economic, political, social, and cultural ties in both the Global North and the Global South. Frequently, we tend to forget how the international presence of Chinese actors we are currently observing did not just happen overnight but is, rather, built on decades of experience of China’s interaction with the rest of the world. In the belief that examining these historical precedents can help us shed light on both the continuities and the discontinuities in the practices of today and that only by digging into the dirt of history can we excavate the roots of the dynamics we are witnessing, we chose to dedicate this issue to the ‘archaeologies of the BRI’.

The special section of this issue includes 11 essays. Maria Adele Carrai opens with an analysis of China’s political use of history and heritage in the context of the BRI, with particular attention to the risks and geopolitical implications of this type of ‘chronopolitics’. Marina Rudyak looks at Chinese discourses of foreign aid, tracing the origins of certain declared principles at the centre of China’s current practices—that is, political non-interference and aid for independent development—to the early days of the People’s Republic and highlighting how historical memory continues to play a significant role in China’s interactions with developing countries. Hong Zhang traces the history of China’s international contracting industry, explaining how it mirrors China’s shifting role in the global economy from a labour exporter to a capital and technology exporter, and now serving to project Chinese state capitalism in the global economic periphery. Jamie Monson describes the lived reality of Chinese and African workers on the construction sites of the Tanzania–Zambia Railway in the 1970s to provide insight into the significance and long-term impact of infrastructure development in China–Africa engagements across time and space. Taomo Zhou tells the backstory of the BRI by tracing the voyages of a ship that, during the Mao period, functioned as a vessel not only for passengers and commodities, but also for Maoist ideology, before being retired and turned into a dynamic field experiment for the market economy in Shenzhen. Covell Meyskens, interviewed by Matthew Galway, discusses how the often-overlooked Third Front Campaign of the 1960s and 1970s shares some uncanny similarities with today’s BRI, both in its emphasis on infrastructure and in the way in which this mobilisation has ensconced industrial society in China’s hinterland. Matthew Galway examines China’s cultural engagements with Mexico, Ghana, and Italy during the Mao era as historical precedents for the ‘people-to-people exchanges’ the Chinese authorities are pursuing today through the BRI. James Gethyn Evans presents the case of the Black Panther Party in the United States and its connections with the Chinese Communist Party in the Mao era to show how Maoism was received by organisations within the First World that considered themselves part of the global Third-World struggle against oppression. Matthew Erie uses the history of legal relations between Pakistan and China as a window on to the question of how small states hedge different yet overlapping international legal orders. Greg Raymond shifts the attention to Southeast Asia, illustrating how the BRI builds on plans that were first laid out by the Greater Mekong Subregion program, but at the same time mark a transition from an era of liberal economics to one of geoeconomics. Finally, Andrea Braun Střelcová examines the recent phenomenon of Chinese universities ‘going global’ through the lens of the BRI in Central and Eastern Europe, unearthing the colonial origins of Chinese universities and contextualising the ongoing tension between the global and local dimensions of China’s higher education system.

The issue opens with five op-eds. In the first, Kevin Lin tackles the recent policy innovations aimed at protecting labour rights in the gig economy in China, explaining why we should not put too much faith in the promises of the official trade union. In the second, Fabio Lanza discusses the fascination with China for many on the left in the long 1960s as well as today. In the third, Ling Li argues that Xi Jinping could choose to revive the office of the Party Chairman to stay in power after the end of his second mandate. In the fourth, Natalie Bugalski and Mark Grimsditch look into the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s practices to ensure that its clients oper­ating in high-risk countries implement international environmental and social standards in their infrastructure projects. Finally, Matthew Galway looks back at the life and political career of the late Abimael Guzmán, also known as Presidente Gonzalo, the leader of the infamous Partido Comunista del Perú–Sendero Luminoso (Communist Party of Peru—Shining Path).

In the China Columns section, Changhao Wei analyses recent changes in the ‘recording and review’ process that China’s national legislature uses to ensure that major categories of legislation enacted by other governmental bodies conform to national law and policy. Mary Ann O’Donnell reconstructs the experience of Shenzhen over past decades, putting urban villages in their historical context and unpacking the unacknowledged moral judgements that often underlie our understanding of these places. Guangzhi Huang examines the representations of foreigners of different ethnicities and backgrounds on China Central Television and argues that, while the state may be relaxing permanent residency restrictions, it favours white foreigners because of racialised assumptions about the high levels of education and expertise that supposedly come with their whiteness.

The issue also includes a forum on Chinese feminism and (self-)censorship edited by Zeng Jinyan, in which five prominent feminist scholars and activists—Wang Zheng, Ye Haiyan, Xianzi, Feng Yuan, Dušica Ristivojević, and Huang Yun—explore the problem of how to deal with the impact of ideological conflicts between China and the West, and to develop strategies for dealing with local and international (self-)censorship of Chinese feminism. The Global China Pulse section features four pieces. In the first, Irna Hofman delves into the reality of personal and labour relations in Chinese agribusinesses in Tajikistan, focusing on the interactions between Chinese men and Tajik women. In the second, Mark Grimsditch discusses the implications of President Xi Jinping’s recent announcement that China will no longer build new coal-fired power plants abroad through a thorough examination of what this means in the case of Cambodia. Finally, in the last two pieces, Sarah Milne and Sango Mahanty provide us with some insights into the human tragedy unfolding in the wake of the construction of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam in Cambodia. They do so through an essay accompanied by the photos of Thomas Cristofoletti and an interview, conducted in collaboration with Soksophea Suong, with Cambodian artist Sreymao Sao.

The cultural section of the journal includes a review essay by Ivan Franceschini about neoliberal academia and the corruption of language in our universities today. James Flath then considers the emergence of a post-industrial China through an examination of the ‘social’ and ‘antisocial’ lives of an industrial glass-forming machine in Shanghai. We conclude the issue with two conversations about mass internment in Xinjiang, the first between Darren Byler and Ivan Franceschini and the second between Sean Roberts and Matthew Robertson.

The Editors

Ivan Franceschini (, Nicholas Loubere, and Stella Hong Zhang

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