Baitanzi: China’s Street Vending Culture

Recently, Chinese street vending has made it into the news again. These hawkers that dot the streets of China have had a long, and ambivalent relationship with its development and its government. After frequent regional directives to purge them from the streets since the country opened its doors, they are being encouraged by the government, as a means of post-COVID_19 micro-economic recovery. China’s tradition of baitanzi, or setting up stall on the street, goes back a long way.


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The Danwei Community

Last week, we received the terrific news that Wuhan, a city that I and many others around the world have been cheering on for months, has officially come out of quarantine. As I watched some videos during the quarantine period, the organized volunteer help in local compounds really demonstrated to me how China’s old-style residential living have come in useful during this time of crisis. Known as the Danwei community, this remnant of the Communist Era had still been the prevalent style of living in China until the early 1990s, and it was very much part of the first dozen years of my life.


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On China’s LGBT

Whenever LGBT issues are mentioned in connection with China, they are almost always reported as negative. LGBT Apps and events being shut down, and one map published during Pride Month coloured China black, as “Persecuting LGBT”, alongside countries like Iran and Nigeria, where homosexuality is still a capital crime. This is of course an outdated and selective view of the country, and whilst it still has a way to go, I think it’s important to set the record straight as to its actual current position, and the history behind it. Like most things about China, its attitude to LGBT issues needs to be understood within the country’s very unusual and unique historical and cultural context. The ancient Chinese had passing acceptance of queer relationships, with homosexual love appearing in written records as early 650 B.C. As with most agricultural nations, where progeny are a necessity, society tolerated homosexuality mainly as a casual penchant of royalty and the aristocracy through the dynastic periods. As society modernised, the political climate during the 1960s and 70s, meant it became politicized as a “bourgeois decadence”, and was outlawed as a crime against the country. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the Chinese really began to interact with the concept of LGBT, in a way that lead to mass inherent misunderstandings. In the late 1990s, legislative progress began to be made. This was slow going, beginning with decriminalisation of homosexuality, but not extending to the removal of trans and queer issues from the list of mental Continue Reading →


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