Conflicts of Modernism

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22nd, 2011 by amodernselkie

“The divide between high and low art remains, literally, academic. For decades, elements of high art have been feeing the wellsprings of advertising cluture… [and] lowbrow or vernacular culture has often availed itself of gimmicks, techniques, motifs, subject matter, and styles from high modernism.” [Barme, Geremie. In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. 248]

This is an aspect of China’s modernizing advertising industry that definitively parallels that of the American and European advertising industries. Since the 1950s and the invention of such standard Modern graphic design tools as Helvetica and block-text, these have been embraced by the rest of the world to the point of being almost cliche now. For example, Helvetica is both regarded as the perfect font, and the most obnoxious font – it is such a standard thing, it is impossible to escape from; it is a typographic monster. Much as China seems conflicted (should it embrace and rebel against the party adcult? When the best ads do both, what does that mean?) so too does the European advertising world seem conflicted about Modernist typeface and design. Are such definitively Modern typefaces as Helvetica and similar typefaces irrevocably tied to the negative connotations of the late-modernist period? Is modernism subversive, merely a representation of fascism, fanatic nationalism, and dictatorships? Can design and style be seperated from the ideas that flourished when those designs were created? I think that is the key question inherent to this quote. Understanding the use of party adcult by modern, ‘lowbrow’ culture is difficult because inherent to this is the question of reason.


One Country, Thirty-Two Economies

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11th, 2011 by amodernselkie

“Many provincial or municipal governments have erected protectionist barriers against investment from other provinces or cities. This has fragmented the national economy… creating a “one country, thirty-two economies” malaise. A survey finds that 85.8 percent of state-owned enterprises invested only in the same city and tat 91.1 percent invested only in the same province.” – Jozsef Borocz. China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism. Ho-Fung Hung,ed. Baltimore:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009. Pg. 192.

This was a completely fascinating realization for me while reading this particular section. While some Americans believe that China is more fragmented than the standard “all of them” view allows for, I think this survey shows how factionalized China is economically more clearly than almost anything else I’ve seen previously. Moreover, this adds a huge crack into the idea of China’s continued, unstoppable  economic success. If the country is so factionalized, how can it possibly be effectively ruled and viewed as a whole? And if China cannot be viewed as a whole, how can it stay together? China has a history of civil war and succession – starting in 1851, the Taiping rebellion established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, a large, separate country within the heart of southern China. It was in place for approximately 13 years. If this history of factionalization is allowed to continue, I feel that it could be one of the first things to fracture under social or economic duress.  Moreover, the current economica rules in place in China promote this nearly separatist approach – according to the chapter, it is extremely difficult for companies to divert savings to invest in new sectors. This seems like an odd policy at best – wouldn’t you want cooperation between localities? It seems to me that it would promote community.

Is the reason that China does not promote investment between localities because they want to make sure the industrial units state compartmentalized? In other words, are they trying to prevent things like migrant laborers, by making it more difficult to form economic ties with areas outside of one’s designated locality?


The Spacial Fix Problem

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8th, 2011 by amodernselkie

“… auto firms were establishing production units in new regions in response to both competition among local governments to attract auto-industry investment and (real or perceived) differences in the cost and docility of labor forces located in different areas of China.” – [1. Ho-fung Hung,China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 178.]

This entire section was extremely interesting to me. The idea of the spatial fix seems remarkably 1900s Industrial Revolution; a belief that workers hired in rural areas will not figure out that your paying them less because, haha, they are rural, and have no access to information. I understand that this is a variation off of the idea of outsourcing work to a cheaper part of the world; but in this model, you outsource to a different part of the country instead of an entirely different country. It is a model that, on a grand scale, seems to work well enough, but seems to inherently have problems. In fact, it seems to be a minor replication of China’s major problems as discussed in this chapter. In short, that workers inevitably rebel against being treated poorly, especially when compared to workers in different areas. This is sited within the spatial fix section; that workers from a small, country town where an automotive company built a second factory where they paid their workers less organized a strike for equal pay to the main plant (179).

On a related note, I was curious if this belief in the spatial fix might explain, in some way, why the Chinese government has been building major roads and airports and the like in rural towns. Is this a side effect of a fervent belief in the spatial fix? That if the government provides access to areas that are otherwise rural and un-industrialized, companies can build factories where they can hire cheap labor?


Neoliberalism and the Effects on Modern China

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6th, 2011 by amodernselkie

Quote – “The Chinese state has actively mobilized the ideology of nationalism and defines itself as carrying out a national project to make China strong and powerful… [but] the Chinese state knows well that excessive nationalism might not only undercut the Communist Party’s ability to rule but also disrupt China’s paramount foreign policy objective.” [1. So, Alvin Y. “Rethinking the Chinese Developmental Miracle.” China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism, 58.]

It was interesting to see someone so clearly state that China can no longer simply legitimize itself by claiming to follow Marxist theory. It is something that is clear to most (if not all), but it something few rarely say so openly. Moreover, the discussion of China’s re-evaluation of itself (promote nationalism!) and the drawbacks of this are fascinating. The control inherent to the Maoist state is used to redefine China in a modern age, to manipulate the media in an attempt to sway public opinion. The issues of too much nationalistic ferver, though, are not really delved into here, but are something we have discussed in depth in class. Issues of supporting the country over the party, epitimized in the Tiananmen Square Incident, seem to be a fairly common issue in modern day China.  The economically driven foreign policy is also interesting from the perspective of the evolution of the Chinese nation – to characterize those who in Mao’s time were  so derided as good friends, to the point of trying to tone down attacks made against the county is a dramatic change indeed.

One of the things discussed in this section was about anti-Japanese sentiment in China. They referred to one specific incident, but I was unfamiliar with it.  What is the ‘incident of the shrine’ that the essay refers to on page 58? Clearly, it had a significant effect on the Chinese perception on Japan, enough so that the Chinese government felt compelled to try and negate the effects for fear of damaging China’s political relations with Japan.