China Perspectives 2017/4

SPECIAL FEATURE

Grassroots Makers of Chinese Digital Economy

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China Perspectives 2017/4

Special Feature

Editorial – Beyond E-Commerce: The Social Case of China’s Digital Economy Page 3

Haiqing Yu

China’s Internet Finance Boom and Tyrannies of Inclusion Page 9

Nicholas Loubere

ABSTRACT: One of the main drivers of China’s e-commerce boom is the dramatic expansion of the country’s Internet finance industry, which has grown and diversified at a staggering rate over the past decade. The emergence of Chinese Internet finance has been discussed in largely positive terms as facilitating commercial activity. It has also been linked to the wider developmental goal of promoting financial inclusion through the provision of financial services to previously excluded populations. Emerging from the global microfinance movement, the concept of financial inclusion depicts increased access to financial services (particularly credit) as an inherently beneficial means of empowering the poor and driving bottom-up economic development. This article challenges this dominant narrative of beneficial digital financial inclusion in China. It draws on the growing body of literature critiquing the global financial inclusion movement, and examines examples of exploitation, fraud, instability, and extraction related to expanded digital financial coverage in contemporary China. It then demonstrates that digital financial inclusion is part and parcel of the Chinese government’s plans to create a social credit system in an attempt to construct a “trustworthy society.” In this way, digital financial inclusion can be seen as a key element in a wider project of expanding surveillance through big data in order to close down spaces for those seeking to contest the hegemonic socioeconomic order. The article argues that these examples illuminate fundamental processes implicit in the expansion of the commercial Internet finance industry. In this way, while the extension of digital financial inclusion in China benefits certain groups, it also necessarily serves to reproduce patterns of inequality and exploitation.
KEYWORDS: Internet finance, Digital finance, Financial inclusion, Digital financial inclusion, Microfinance, Microcredit, Social credit, China.

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Programming Practices of Chinese Code Farmers: Articulations, Technology, and Alternatives Page 19

Ping Sun

ABSTRACT: Built on the theoretical framework of articulation and assemblage, this article explores programming practices among grassroots programmers in contemporary China. Using data obtained from ethnographic fieldwork in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, it provides an account of the information technology practices in contemporary China at the nexus of the Beijing government, IT corporations, and individual programmers. Through examining how programming is articulated in both China’s advocacy for “a creative society” and grassroots programmers’ daily practices in the process of China’s informatization, this article has mapped myriad articulations such as engagement, communication, discourse, and practice that have made and unmade grassroots programmers’ programming assemblage. We argue that technology for Chinese programmers is a mixed blessing. As a means of survival, technology exacerbates the precariousness and marginalisation of grassroots programmers in China, while the capability of technology production also enables the remaking of subjectivity and social change. The findings of this study thus advocate a deeper and dialectical understanding of the interaction between technology, labour, and empowerment.
KEYWORDS: Programmers, articulation and assemblage, technology, Maker Movement, China.

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Therapy Made Easy: E-Commerce and Infrastructure in China’s Psycho-Boom Page 29

Hsuan-Ying Huang

ABSTRACT: In China, the rise of e-commerce has made significant impacts on a broad range of business and professional fields; psychotherapy, a profession born of the recent “psycho-boom” (xinli re 心理热), is one of them. This article, using materials collected from interviews, participant observation, and media accounts, delineates the development of Jiandan xinli (简单心理), a Beijing-based startup that features an e-commerce platform for psychotherapy services, and explicates how and why it has achieved enormous initial success. Drawing on the insights of anthropological studies of infrastructure, it argues that the platform can be conceptualised as an example of “infrastructural entrepreneurship,” a business practice taking the construction of infrastructure—in this case, for the field of psychotherapy—as its primary mission.
KEYWORDS: e-commerce, infrastructure, O2O, psychotherapy, profession.

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Articles

Between Resistance and Adaptation: The Place of the Uyghur Language in the Sinicised Zone of Ürümchi Page 41

Giulia Cabras

ABSTRACT: The urban areas of Xinjiang have recently experienced major changes in their demographic, urban, ethnic, and linguistic landscapes. Ürümchi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is a typical example of this. In this city, which is undergoing rapid economic and urban expansion, the Han make up around 72% of the population and the Chinese language is ever more present in the language use of the Uyghurs. This study examines the place of the Uyghur language in the context of the sinicisation of the city of Ürümchi, its role in the daily life of the Uyghur community, and opportunities for its use and revitalisation.
KEYWORDS: Ürümchi, Uyghur community, Uyghur language, language use, language policies.

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The Migration of Experts and Savoir-faire: The Case of French Cuisine Professionals in Shanghai Page 49

Aël ThéryHélène Le Bail

ABSTRACT: This article focuses on the practice of French cuisine in Shanghai and questions the permanence of this professional niche. It combines an anthropological approach to culinary techniques with a sociological approach to workforce migration, tracing the ways in which the discourse and practices of chefs and maîtres d’hôtel working in French cuisine’s restaurants employ forms of ethnocultural and technical legitimacy. The case of Shanghai, a city undergoing rapid transformation in its modes of consumption, provides a clear illustration of the shifts that have occurred over the last ten years in the hierarchy of Western migrants and Chinese locals: the symbolic and material privileges offered to the former are beginning to disappear, and professional recognition is increasingly becoming based on savoir-faire and a strong work ethic.
KEYWORDS: China, French cuisine, migration, knowledge transfer, training.

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CEFC News Analysis

The Imprisonment of Occupy Student Leaders: Public Reactions and Debates over Hong Kong’s Judicial Independence Page 59

Ting-Fai Yu

Book Reviews

Yiu-Wai Chu, Hong Kong Cantopop: A Concise History Page 63

Nathanel Amar

Luigi Tomba, The Government Next Door: Neighborhood Politics in Urban China Page 65

Judith Audin

Ji Zhe, Religion, modernité et temporalité. Une sociologie du bouddhisme Chan contemporain (Religion, modernity and temporality: A sociology of contemporary Chan Buddhism) Page 66

Sébastien Billioud

Ruoyun Bai, Staging Corruption: Chinese Television and Politics Page 67

Qian Gong

David S. G. Goodman, Class in Contemporary China Page 68

Gilles Guiheux

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