From Wenhua to Wenhua Chanye:
A Review of Culture in the Contemporary PRC

Edited by Michel Hockx and Julia Strauss

Reviewed by Hai Ren
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2007)

Michel Hockx and Julia Straus, eds. Contemporary Culture in the PRC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.  212pp. Paperback ISBN-13:9780521681247; ISBN-10:0521681243. £17.99.

Michel Hockx and Julia Straus, eds. Contemporary Culture in the PRC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
212pp. Paperback ISBN-13:9780521681247; ISBN-10:0521681243. £17.99.

In Keywords, Raymond Williams notes that the English word “culture” has three meanings: culture as a history (“civilization”); culture as aesthetic or intellectual Culture (“the independent and abstract noun which describes the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity”); and culture as ordinary or everyday culture (“a particular way of life, whether of a people, a period, or a group”).[1] Williams’ notion of culture is useful for two reasons. It implicitly suggests that the concept of culture is necessarily a culturally specific concept since his genealogical understanding is based on the English history. For the purpose of this essay, I will use the Chinese word “wenhua” to capture the specificities of the problems of contemporary Chinese culture. Especially, I will use an in-depth review of the book Culture in the Contemporary PRC[2] as a way to discuss how wenhua is being transformed into wenhua chanye (“cultural enterprise” or culture industry) under the conditions of what I call neoliberal globalization.[3]

Second, Williams’ notion of culture is a useful theoretical tool because it allows us to grasp multiple meanings of “culture” even when we focus on just one of its dimension (whether literature, art, or everyday life). As a theoretical concept, thus, wenhua/culture remains contingent rather than teleological. In a given cultural or historical condition, however, culture might be either contingent or teleological. The transformation of wenhua into wenhua chanye, as I discuss below, is a process that has a teleological tendency to move toward neoliberal ideologies.

Before relating in detail the transformation of wenhua into wenhua chanye, it is necessary to point out that exactly what constitutes the problematic of wenhua in contemporary China is subject to debate. Wang Xiaoming, for example, calls for an expansion of contemporary cultural studies so as to confront the challenge of defining the nature of the transformations shaping contemporary China. Every important change in China, “be it the rapid rise of the new rich, the increasing number of depressed regions, or the widening of the Open Door, has been not only an economic, political, or ecological phenomenon, but also a cultural one.”[4] That is, an understanding of any and all economic, political, and environmental changes in contemporary China will need to take wenhua into account. For Wang Xiaoming and other critical scholars such as Wang Hui and Dai Jinhua, one of the most pressing issues is to critique the “new ideology” that conceals or glosses over the realities of contemporary Chinese society. This ideology is the political discourse that regulates and normalizes in a relatively systematic manner prevalent historical narratives, conceptions of the meaning of life, and of the future.[5] An important site for these scholars to address the problematic of wenhua is mass media, which connects wenhua to economics and politics.

Culture in the Contemporary PRC also takes media as an important area for understanding contemporary wenhua, and its contributors examine such specific types of media as film, advertising, music, and the internet. Compared with the three Chinese scholars I mentioned above who take the ideological critique of media ideology as a key problem, this book contributes to the growing body of scholarship on contemporary Chinese culture[6] by addressing several related issues from a rather different perspective. As the editors Michel Hockx and Julia Strauss note, the book as a whole addresses the changing role of the state in cultural production by making a distinction between the Maoist and the post-Mao states. Moreover, as the project shows, marketization tends to marginalize “high” culture producers and to affect positive changes in the cultural realm. In addition, as the book reveals, globalization in China takes the direction of localization and offers new opportunities for cultural production.

In addition to these three issues framed by the editors, the essays included in this book take as a basic premise the central importance of cultural producers.[7] This focus on cultural production makes sense when considering the fact that the individual chapters cover a range of urban-based cultural producers, including filmmakers, musicians, fashion designers, poets, museum curators, marketers, and “middle-class” homeowners. These actors have occupied the center stage of cultural production and played important roles in defining, preserving, transforming, and imagining wenhua in contemporary China.

Below, I take cultural production and consumption as a major theme in my discussion of the problematic of contemporary Chinese culture, especially in terms of the transformation of wenhua to wenhua chanye.[8] I begin with the issue of change in the fashion industry to bring out history as a problem of storytelling. In recent years, narratives of historical changes have not only exploded in terms of numbers, but also expanded to take almost every imaginable form. And yet, not all stories are equal; only those that incorporate commercial information seem to make the cut. In the transformation of wenhua to wenhua chanye, entrepreneurialism has emerged as the legitimizing principle underlying a new proliferation of proper names for social categories and conditions–to name a few, “relatively comfortable” (xiaokang), “middle-class” (zhongchan), “successful people” (chenggong renshi), “subculture” (linglei), and “synchronization with the world” (yu shijie jiegui). My discussion considers some of the consequences of this transformation in aesthetic practices such as avant-garde poetry, not only in terms of its changing “aura” but also its expressive incorporation of new media. Finally, I move on to address consumption (an instance of wenhua as a way of life) to raise the question of neoliberal agency in subject formation in the life-making and life-building process. Ultimately, my objective is to consider culture’s contingency and incoherence within a perceived teleological transformation of wenhua into wenhua chanye.

How is change reflected in China’s fashion industry? In her essay “China on the Catwalk: Between Economic Success and Nationalist Anxiety,” Antonia Finnane draws our attention to a central contradiction: “At the heart of China’s fashion industry . . . is a sustained tension between satisfaction at economic success in penetrating world markets and nationalist anxiety over failure to win world acclaim for Chinese fashion designs ” (p. 67). This tension within the development of the fashion industry is regarded as an illustration of China’s social and cultural transformation in the past three decades. Fashion, as one instance, opened up a dialogue between China and the rest of the world in the late 1970s. This was followed by a decade within which the transformation of clothing, as with literature, music, painting, and film, contributed to the repositioning of Chinese society in relation to the outside and to its own past. Finally, since the 1990s, fashion design, modeling, magazines, and fashion shows have been blended into the fabric of everyday urban life, especially in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou.

Beyond the important issue of the tension between economic success and nationalist anxiety as a legitimate concern inside the country’s fashion industry, it might also be possible to reframe fashion via other lenses. For example, I cannot help but think of fashion as an expression of affect. It is obvious that a fashion model requires a particular type of body and that modeling performs corporeal intimacy by posing, expressing emotions, and walking down the catwalk. Can we make a distinction between the aesthetic display of the body and the affective performance of fashion? This is an important issue because it points to the relationship between aesthetics and spectacle in the presentation of the self. And this is also an issue that cannot help but be implicated in the fashioning of historical narratives: as Finnane tells us, the New Silk Route Modeling Company staged a series of shows in Berlin in 2001. Each show offered a spectacular parade of “‘dignified’ Han, ‘luxurious’ Tang, ‘delicate’ Song, ‘bold’ Yuan, ‘bright’ Ming and ‘elegantly gorgeous’ Qing costume” (p. 83). How do such historical feelings as the “dignified,” the “luxurious,” the “delicate,” the “bold,” the “bright” and the “elegantly gorgeous” express the relationship between aesthetics and spectacle? Is historical consciousness possible in such a situation? Or, are those expressions merely markers of consumer choices?

History and its representations clearly become problematical in the context of museums. In his essay on museums and exhibitionary culture, Kirk Denton juxtaposes two forms of cultural expression. One is a vibrant form of urban popular culture that includes media as diverse as television soap operas, popular music concerts, “campus fiction,” internet novels and mobile novels, pornographic internet sites, fashion and design magazines (p. 44, fn5). Another is associated with museums of modern history. These museums are “pedagogical tools for the teaching of Party history to the masses. They embody state power, and the power is expressed at a variety of levels” (p. 45) in terms of architectural styles, museum locations, “authenticity” of artifacts, and display techniques. The contrast between the two seems clear: “whereas urban popular culture tends to stress the importance of self, self-fulfillment and personal consumption, museums of modern history . . . emphasize the centrality of self-sacrifice to the grand narratives of nation and the communist revolution” (p. 44). And yet, Denton asks, how have new aesthetics, new technologies, and new forms of popular culture affected museums and their representations of the modern past? To address this question, Denton examines the influence of popular culture on exhibitions both in terms of the use of multimedia and dioramas and in terms of the way in which materials are organized and presented. In doing so, he argues: “As China moved boldly into a market economy in the 1980s and 1990s . . . museums of modern history edged slowly away from standard narratives of class oppression and revolutionary struggle towards representations of the past that legitimize the contemporary ideology of commerce, entrepreneurship and market reform” (p. 45).

It turns out that whether in the realm of fashion or museums, history re-emerges as a particular kind of narrative mode, one tied to storytelling techniques that strive to communicate the inevitability of economic development and advocate entrepreneurialism. History, whether in a fashion show or at a theme park (including a museum operating on the model of a theme park), becomes a semiotic technique for coding commercial success stories, a technique the Walt Disney Company has called “imagineering.”[9] Thus, we might argue that the kind of globalization we have witnessed in China is concerned less with negotiating its Chineseness per se than choosing appropriate technics in facilitating China’s globalization.[10]

Telling a good story is quite literally the business of China’s film industry. Both mainstream and avant-garde filmmakers are interested in exploring the links between   cinematic storytelling and economic practices such as cross-promotional synergy. In his discussion of “cultural brokers” as Feng Xiaogang, Zhang Yimou, Ning Ying, and Wu Wenguang, Yomi Braester presents a compelling case about the film industry’s synchronization with the world (“Hollywood” in this case). Films such as Feng Xiaogang’s blockbusters Big Shot’s Funeral (2001) and Cell Phone (2003) have become classic examples of presenting commercial synergy as entertainment. The success of these films reflects a generalized desire for becoming rich through their formal and extra-filmic recalculation of the rules of economic life, thus coming to embody the imperatives of entrepreneurialism.

Moreover, the film industry, like other entertainment industries (e.g., television), is part of a larger process of cultural enterprising–of transforming wenhua (culture) into an industry. A number of examples discussed in Braester’s article reveal the close link between filmmaking and real estate. Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, successful real estate developers in Beijing, are interested in using media (film and the internet) to facilitate their business. Pan was the male lead in Asipilin (Aspirin, 2005). Moreover, their famous development project, SOHO China, hired the well-known documentary filmmaker Ning Ying to produce a twelve-minute promotional video. I agree with Braester’s argument that “the collaboration between real estate developers and filmmakers results from a growing understanding of space as cultural capital and from the increasing involvement of movies in shaping the cultural value of space in the past decade” (p. 39). I would add that the representation of space is part of an ongoing process of spatial production in which space itself is used as a medium for transforming social relationships, including, for example, those of class and citizenship.

From wenhua to wenhua chanye, culture becomes an industry. This too is a process: different sectors of culture, which used to be non-commercial and non-privatized, are gradually commercialized.[11] Popular music, in contrast to museums and schools, is one of the first areas of culture that became a commercial enterprise. Becoming wealthy has definitely surfaced as the top priority not only for the nation but also for the individual. In the context of China’s popular music since the late 1990s, Yan Jun writes: “China is changing . . . the market is spreading. Wild thoughts, pledges, poetry and even the suicidal urge have been pushed to the bottom of the box by accumulated wealth. Memory, like first love, is melting in the currents of information.”[12] The domination of wealth (and what it signifies) and commercial information in cultural production pushes other things (such as noises, gaps, and inconsistencies) to unnamable territories. “Nameless Highland” (wuming gaodi) is the name of a bar in Beijing, and it is also in this sense an appropriate site for the performance of alternative music.

In his essay, Jeroen de Kloet characterizes Beijing’s multifaceted music culture by describing three distinctive scenes. The “fashionable bands” (shimao yuedui), such as Sober (Qingxing) and Supermarket (Chaoji shichang), reject the early rebellious rock culture represented by Cui Jian’s music and maintain the mainstream attitude of synchronizing with the world. Whereas the fashionable bands embrace marketization, “underground sound” (dixia yinyue) bands such as NO and Tongue (Shetou) offer something quite different. They value a “set of aesthetics that establish a noisy, ironic, and sarcastic critique on contemporary China and the state-supported forces of marketization” (p. 103). Ironically, they have benefited from this marketization, especially the establishment of small record companies that promote their music (p. 103).[13] The third music scene described by de Kloet is the “nostalgic” music of such “urban folk” (chengshi minge) singers as Hu Mage and Xiao He, those who desire to withdraw themselves from marketization. The musician expresses his (rarely her) own individual sentiment toward the movement of temporality by incorporating the temporality of the folk into that of the city. These three music scenes, de Kloet argues, represent “sonic tactics that are used by musicians and their audiences to navigate through a contemporary China in which a state-supported urban consumerism is deeply embedded in an increasingly globalized capitalist economy” (pp. 88-89, original emphasis).

Traveling from Beijing to Xinjiang (or more generally, from the Han to an ethnic minority region), sonic tactics take a comparatively different direction, as shown by Rachel Harris in her essay. In a manner similar to Beijing’s dakou musicians who listened to cut-rate, illegally cast-off CDs from abroad, Uyghur musicians also rely on a well-developed media culture that has benefited from the widespread dissemination of cassettes and VCDs in Xinjiang. This kind of media consumption is part of the broader process of domestic and international flows of music, especially from/to major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou and from/to central Asia. Uyghur popular music, usually performed during community-based festivals and parties, provides a cultural expression of Uyghur identity. Synchronizing with the world in the context of Xinjiang is thus not quite the same expression of cosmopolitanism as in the Han region. Whereas the Han embrace cosmopolitanism because they reject Westernization, the Uyghur turns to cosmopolitanism because they reject Hanification. This is illustrated by Harris’ detailed discussion of the way in which Uyghur musicians express a strong sense of loss in their understanding of the past and posit Uyghur authentic identity through the figure of the mother (pp. 112-116).

Not only does the industralization of culture embrace market rationality by submitting culture to the spectacular arena of capital, but it also transforms the whole aura of culture that is traditionally associated with creative aesthetics. One of the most obvious cases is contemporary Chinese poetry. A major characteristic of avant-garde (“unofficial” or “experimental”) poetry is its aesthetic of political antagonism. Since the 1980s, Maghiel van Crevel argues, Chinese avant-garde poetry has shifted from “mind” via “mayhem” to “money” (p. 124). Under these conditions, money takes politics hostage in regulating the mind. Poetry moves in two divergent directions: according to van Crevel, some becomes “elevated” and others “earthly” (p.125). The entire scene of Chinese poetry, including but not limiting to images of poets, poetry writing and circulation, and the status of poetry itself, has thus been altered. The poet is now judged by his (and sometimes her) popularity and visibility (pp. 131-132); and the work of poetic writing is considered as a form of processing or crafting a language that is increasingly not restricted to the written words (pp. 134-135). Beyond mere figures of speech, still images (such as photographs of poets and of their handwritings), public performance and videos have increasingly been synchronized with the written word.

By emphasizing its writing techniques and materiality, this kind of poetic practice seems to move beyond the limits of poetry as a genre (that is, what defines poetry in a conventional or proper manner) and enters into the realm of new media culture, which has been continuously shaped by the rapid development of the internet. The emergence and development of web literature in general and online poetry in particular is the focus of Michel Hockx’ essay. The current scholarship on the Chinese internet, as Hockx and others have pointed out,[14] overwhelmingly emphasizes censorship while missing the complex history of the emerging internet culture. Although it is a fact that new laws and regulations tend to be formulated to regulate the development of the internet as a whole, individual sites tend to follow a self-regulating model, in the name of “operating a web site in a civil manner” (wenming banwang). The latter situation might be called self-censorship, but it does show the importance of decision-making by individual site managers and operators. Thus, the negotiation between two types of power–the normative power associated with laws and the decision-based power held by particular individuals–is fundamental to our understanding of the politics of the Chinese internet.

Beyond censorship, the problem of the internet media is also critical to the understanding of web literature. While it is reasonable to critique the overemphasis on the form/technology of the internet, it is also important to recognize that the phenomenon of internet-based literature we are observing today is still unfolding. The fact that Chinese online literature maintains a close link to print culture does not necessarily suggest that Chinese online literature is not a media culture. The relationship among media technology, aesthetics, and writing is still in flux, and these changes are also reshaping the aura of literature itself as a form of creative culture.

In his comparison of Chinese and American online poetry websites, Hockx uses the term “community” to draw our attention to “culture-specific features of Chinese web literature” (p. 148). In addition, for me, the term “community” also evokes the issue of reception. I wonder who might be the users of Chinese poetry sites. Are they mostly poets themselves, as suggested by van Crevel (in a different context)? Or, are they middle-class urban professionals who live in internet-accessible gated communities?[15]

The problem of consumption always connects to both cultural producers and consumers. In the context of an essay on subcultural “Neo-tribes and the Urban Imaginary,” Jing Wang examines links between lifestyle cultures and marketing, especially how advertising and marketing work in China to translate the ever-changing formation of the bobo (bohemian/bourgeois) into consumer products. In marketing the bobo phenomenon, the main principle seems to be market segmentation. What are some of the social consequences of this marketing strategy? The bobo case shows class formation in China as a complicated process of subcultural formation, which involves dis-appearing politics, re-orientating values, and re-calculating rules. First, bobo marketing drops bobo’s Bohemian aspect while retaining its bourgeois dimension. Second, the bobo relates to wealth in a particular way that emphasizes affluence but not the mere possession of money. Third, bobo as a lifestyle claims its link to the middle class as an expression of cosmopolitanism rather than as that of class antagonism. In this sense, bobo practice can be seen as an inter-Asian cultural phenomenon of youth culture, which is associated with the generation of youth sometimes referred to as “xin xin renlei” or “neo neo-tribes” (p. 24).

On the consumer side of consumption, the book also includes an article by Deborah Davis on urban homeownership. Davis’ topic is important for many reasons. First, as one of the most debated problems in contemporary China, home consumption is linked in complex ways to a series of issues: for example, the country’s rapidly developing real estate sector and its diffusion into many other sectors of the economy; the way in which some government officials transgress existing laws; and the rising concern for private property rights and social injustice. Second, home consumption as part of the practice of everyday life is inseparable from issues of life-making and life-building in relation to family, community, and class. Especially relevant to these issues is the historical change from the “work unit” (danwei) system to the recent “community” (shequ) system in major cities.[16] Third, home consumption as a research problem raises a series of issues about how a researcher treats the voices of her/his informants, especially given the complexity of home consumption in China.

Building on her continuous research on home consumption in China,[17] Davis’ article aims to describe narratives of homeowners in Shanghai. During her fieldwork, Davis claims to have learned two things from her informants. She discovers “a more reflexive and critical narrative that signified agency and individuation more than manipulation and domination” (p. 186). Moreover, she also recognizes the way in which her subjects react to contemporary inequalities and invest emotionally in consumer culture by emphasizing “expanded autonomy, even freedom” (p. 187) because they are informed by their “personal memories of the exploitative use of class struggle by Maoist elites” (p. 186). Davis’ homeowners were born in the 1950s and the early 1960s and experienced the Cultural Revolution. Their memories of Maoist China are reported to be negative. As for their income level, they appear to have been successful, at least since the early 1990s. Many (if not all) earned roughly US$5,000 a year (2004 figure) so that they could afford to shop in a store like Ikea (first opened in Shanghai in 1998) (pp. 180-181).

Considering who they are and what they express, it is not difficult to have a rough picture of how they deal with life-making and life-building. If one’s life-building is always informed by his/her personal memories of tragic political repression in Mao’s China, isn’t it true that a sense of freedom gained in his/her life-building is grounded in the politics of appropriating these kinds of memories? What then are the consequences of this articulation of self between freedom and historical memory? No doubt they have achieved some degree of success in their lives. In many ways, they are both “models” of successful people in China’s economic reforms and contributors to the rising gap between the rich and the poor. So, how do we consider the issue of life-making and life-extension among those who have lived in Mao’s China but have not become equally successful in this new age of liberty?[18] Are they simply losers who failed to manage to transform their lives in the entrepreneurial manner? It seems to me that the stories of Davis’ homeowners raise many unanswered questions about wenhua as a politics of normative ways of life.

In sum, the politics of making wenhua an enterprise is key to understanding the problem of contemporary Chinese culture. In this politics, the future of wenhua is encoded through historical narratives of entrepreneurialism. In other words, the contours of Chinese history are reshaped by economic discourses–in the cases of fashion, museums and theme parks, and personal memories of economically successful people–to legitimize the ruling ideology of the Chinese state. Moreover, creativity and aesthetics in cultural production can hardly be said to have evinced political committment (despite appearances to the contrary) since the early 1990s. Collusion between aesthetics and commerce has become a dominant practice in cultural production (in cases of film, music, and poetry). In addition, processes of life-making and life-building, in cases of subculture and home consumption, place value on a discourse of liberty–of responsibilities derived from being both entrepreneur and cosmopolitan. Thus, agency in the practice of everyday life comes from successfully calculating established and emerging laws and rules, rather than abiding by them. This agency is no doubt neoliberal.[19]

Returning to Williams’ three meanings of culture, I would like to suggest that each meaning might be considered as multiple, and thus the question of culture might be reframed as a problem of multiplicity. As shown in my discussion of the scholarship on contemporary Chinese culture, it would be appropriate to add the culture industry to this list of multiples, indicating that the counting of culture and of its multiplicity is always a constructive process. In the neoliberal transformation (of wenhua into wenhua chanye), economic narratives underpin the writing of political history; economic calculation underwrites the operations of artistic and creative practices; and an economistic way of life becomes normative conduct for life-making and life-building. It should be noted that this neoliberal process in which economics displaces culture, is just one constructive mode of recounting culture’s multiples. Is it possible for neoliberal economics to count for every multiple of culture? This is perhaps the ultimate question in thinking through the problematic of culture in contemporary China and elsewhere.

Hai Ren
University of Arizona


[1] Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (Oxford University Press, 1976): 80. Since its publication, scholars in humanities and social sciences have widely accepted Williams’ explanation, and yet debated over culture’s specific meanings in the contemporary period (civilization, art and creativity, and way of life).

[2] Michel Hockx and Julia Strauss, Culture in the Contemporary PRC (Cambridge University Press, 2005). The book first appeared as a special issue of the journal The C hina Quarterly in 2005.

[3] I use the phrase “neoliberal globalization” to describe a global process that takes on neoliberalism as a fundamental legitimizing principle in developing, shaping, and reconstructing nation-states, including Western states (such as the United States and Britain) and developing countries like China, Mexico, and Chile. This process began no later than the late 1970s. Without going into detailed explanation, here I summarize a set of characteristics designated by the concept of neoliberalism. First, neoliberalism theoretically extends economic rationality to all aspects of human life; and thus in practice, it is a constructivist project. Second, the normalization of neoliberalism requires political intervention and orchestration by the state. Meanwhile, the state itself becomes an enterprise organized by market rationality; and its legitimacy is based on the health and growth of the economy. Third, citizenship takes the moral form of an entrepreneurial subject: neoliberalism measures every citizen’s conduct as economic behavior. The neo-liberal citizen calculates rather than abides rules. Moreover, “do-it-yourself” or self-responsible way of life extension (life-making and life-building) differentiates between successfully managed and unsuccessfully managed lives. Fourth, governmental and social policies are formulated according to the above criteria. For interested readers, David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press, 2005) offers a clear explanation of the uneven development of neoliberalism in various parts of the world since the late 1970s. Compared with Harvey’s brief mentioning of China, Aihwa Ong’s Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty (Duke University Press, 2006) offers more detailed analysis of China, especially neoliberal development in China’s special economic zones. Moreover, Katharyne Mitchell’s Crossing the Neoliberal Line: Pacific Rim Migration and the Metropolis (Temple University Press, 2004) documents how the immigration of the Hong Kong residents in the 1980s and the 1990s affected neoliberal development in Canada.

[4] Wang Xiaoming, “A Manifesto for Cultural Studies,” In Chaohua Wang ed., One China, Many Paths (Verso, 2003): 287.

[5] Ibid., p. 288. Also see Wang Hui’s “Depoliticized Politics, From East to West,” New Left Review no. 41 (Sept.-Oct. 2006): 42.

[6] In recent years, quite a few anthologies have been published to examine culture in contemporary China. Some comparative examples include Deborah Davis (ed.), The Consumer Revolution in Urban China (University of California Press, 2000); Jing Wang (ed.), Chinese Popular Culture and the State (a special issue of positions: east asia cultures critique , vol. 9, no. 1, 2001); Nancy N. Chen, Constance D. Clark, Suzanne Z. Gottschang, and Lyn Jeffery (eds.), China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture (Duke University Press, 2001); and Perry Link, Richard P. Madsen, and Paul G. Pickowicz (eds.), Popular China: Unofficial Culture in a Globalizing Society (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

[7] Despite being mentioned once in the book’s Introduction (p. 3), it was dropped later to focus on the first three issues.

[8] I have changed the existing order of the chapters to suit my discussion.

[9] For an in-depth analysis of the problem of imagineering, see Hai Ren, “The Landscape of Power: Imagineering Consumer Behavior at China’s Theme Parks.” In Scott A Lukas ed., The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, and Self (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007): 97-112.

[10] This does not mean that Chineseness under conditions of globalization is no longer important.

[11] A history of this transformation has yet to be written.

[12] Yan Jun, Ranshao de shengyin (Burning Noise) (Jiangsu: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 2004), p. 174. Cited in de Kloet (p. 103, note 46).

[13] In considering the “underground music” scene, we should make a distinction between the political and its appearance. The political does not follow any established logics or laws whereas the appearance of politics often embraces a convention, norm, or standard.

[14] For example, Yongming Zhou’s book Historicizing Online Politics: Telegraphy, the Internet, and Political Participation in China (Stanford University Press, 2006).

[15] See Luigi Tomba, “Creating an Urban Middle Class: Social Engineering in Beijing,” The China Journal no. 51 (2004): 1-26.

[16] David Bray, “Building ‘Community’: New Strategies of Governance in Urban China,” Economy and Society 35, no. 4 (Nov. 2006): 530-549.

[17] For an example of her recent work, see Deborah S. Davis, “Urban Chinese Homeowners as Citizen-Consumers,” In Sheldon Garon and Patricia L. Maclachlan eds., The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006): 281-299.

[18] This question, I think, is what Pun Ngai’s critique of consumption intends to address. See her “Subsumption or Consumption?,” Cultural Anthropology 18, no. 4 (2003): 469-492.

[19] For an excellent elaboration of the links between neoliberalism and citizenship, see Wendy Brown’s “Neo-Liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy,” Theory and Event 7, no. 1 (2003).