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In Search of Paradise: Middle-class Living in a Chinese Metropolis by [Zhang, Li]
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In Search of Paradise: Middle-class Living in a Chinese Metropolis Kindle Edition


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Review

"The emergence of an increasingly assertive Chinese middle class, aware of its rights but selectively attentive to the civic values that speculators and developers frequently trample underfoot, infuses both the analytic precision and the passionate chiaroscuro of In Search of Paradise. Against the appalling backdrop of the construction laborers' living conditions and of massive patterns of eviction and dislocation, Zhang shows how realtors deploy national laws and socialist and environmental values, with a sometimes self-interested cynicism that nevertheless also answers to the drive to generate a wholesale spatial restructuring from face-lifts to high-rise fortresses of Chinese society and subjectivity." Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, author of Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome"

"Li Zhang's perceptive analysis of the 'spatialization of class' and its role in the emergence of a new middle class offers important insights into a Chinese version of modernization and urban development while also uncovering the unstable and complex ways in which spatial transformation creates new forms of identity and experiences of urbanity. Our ability to understand the impact of increasing private home ownership globally depends on this kind of in-depth culturally, politically, and economically informed ethnography. The regional city of Kunming, scarred and deprived of its historical and architectural heritage, becomes the image of modernity and the answer to the dreams of the Chinese middle class and their search for a modern future. But at the same time something is lost and homeowners along with other citizens begin to struggle against the government and private developers who are capitalizing on the remaking of the urban landscape." Setha Low, Professor of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center, author of Behind the Gates and On the Plaza"

"In Search of Paradise is an engaging ethnography of the very different ways in which individuals, families, and social strata are affected by the experience of homeownership. Li Zhang explains how, in the process, they become citizens of a different political order, building responsibilities and elaborating desires. This important book is a significant addition to the literature on China's housing reform and to our understanding of the political and cultural dynamics of urban social change." Luigi Tomba, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific"

"In Search of Paradise is concerned with . . . the implications of the reconfiguration of residential space in Chinese cities for class formation, social exclusion, governing practices, state-society relations, and even for conjugal relationships. . . . Zhang uses her native Kunming as test ground; this results in a savvy and highly readable ethnography of urban social change, which is nonetheless grounded in a strong theoretical framework." Beatriz Carrillo, The China Journal (July 2011)"

"This book is an excellent ethnography of urban middle-class living in the midst of rapid transformation in China's postsocialism. The validity of Zhang s ethnography is enhanced by its frankness, her willingness to be honest about those with whom she mingled so closely in her hometown. . . . Especially given the difficulty in gaining access to the lives of middle-class people, who prefer the privacy of living in gated communities, this book is ethnography at its best. It will be of interest to scholars working in Chinese market transition, class and social stratification, state-society relations, and urban studies, as well as those who are interested in empirically-grounded social and cultural theories." Seio Nakajima, Journal of Asian Studies (May 2011)"

"China's rapid urbanisation process and an emerging real estate market have become an eye-catching phenomenon in academic research. It not only greatly transformed the landscape of Chinese cities, but greatly altered the way urban Chinese live and think about their private space, public space and their traditional communities. . . .Overall, this book is easy to read. It can be used as a textbook for undergraduate or postgraduate students to understand the spatialisation of class. It can also provide rich information to academics seeking to understand how individuals, the state, corporations, homeowners and other social groups reposition themselves during housing regime change in China." Yawei Chen, International Journal of Housing Policy (June 2014)"

"China's rapid urbanisation process and an emerging real estate market have become an eye-catching phenomenon in academic research. It not only greatly transformed the landscape of Chinese cities, but greatly altered the way urban Chinese live and think about their private space, public space and their traditional communities. . . .Overall, this book is easy to read. It can be used as a textbook for undergraduate or postgraduate students to understand the spatialisation of class. It can also provide rich information to academics seeking to understand how individuals, the state, corporations, homeowners and other social groups reposition themselves during housing regime change in China." Yawei Chen, International Journal of Housing Policy (June 2014)

"

"The emergence of an increasingly assertive Chinese middle class, aware of its rights but selectively attentive to the civic values that speculators and developers frequently trample underfoot, infuses both the analytic precision and the passionate chiaroscuro of In Search of Paradise. Against the appalling backdrop of the construction laborers' living conditions and of massive patterns of eviction and dislocation, Zhang shows how realtors deploy national laws and socialist and environmental values, with a sometimes self-interested cynicism that nevertheless also answers to the drive to generate a wholesale spatial restructuring from face-lifts to high-rise fortresses of Chinese society and subjectivity." Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, author of Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome

"

"Li Zhang's perceptive analysis of the 'spatialization of class' and its role in the emergence of a new middle class offers important insights into a Chinese version of modernization and urban development while also uncovering the unstable and complex ways in which spatial transformation creates new forms of identity and experiences of urbanity. Our ability to understand the impact of increasing private home ownership globally depends on this kind of in-depth culturally, politically, and economically informed ethnography. The regional city of Kunming, scarred and deprived of its historical and architectural heritage, becomes the image of modernity and the answer to the dreams of the Chinese middle class and their search for a modern future. But at the same time something is lost and homeowners along with other citizens begin to struggle against the government and private developers who are capitalizing on the remaking of the urban landscape." Setha Low, Professor of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center, author of Behind the Gates and On the Plaza

"

"In Search of Paradise is an engaging ethnography of the very different ways in which individuals, families, and social strata are affected by the experience of homeownership. Li Zhang explains how, in the process, they become citizens of a different political order, building responsibilities and elaborating desires. This important book is a significant addition to the literature on China's housing reform and to our understanding of the political and cultural dynamics of urban social change." Luigi Tomba, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

"

"In Search of Paradise is concerned with . . . the implications of the reconfiguration of residential space in Chinese cities for class formation, social exclusion, governing practices, state-society relations, and even for conjugal relationships. . . . Zhang uses her native Kunming as test ground; this results in a savvy and highly readable ethnography of urban social change, which is nonetheless grounded in a strong theoretical framework." Beatriz Carrillo, The China Journal (July 2011)

"

"This book is an excellent ethnography of urban middle-class living in the midst of rapid transformation in China's postsocialism. The validity of Zhang s ethnography is enhanced by its frankness, her willingness to be honest about those with whom she mingled so closely in her hometown. . . . Especially given the difficulty in gaining access to the lives of middle-class people, who prefer the privacy of living in gated communities, this book is ethnography at its best. It will be of interest to scholars working in Chinese market transition, class and social stratification, state-society relations, and urban studies, as well as those who are interested in empirically-grounded social and cultural theories." Seio Nakajima, Journal of Asian Studies (May 2011)

"

About the Author

Li Zhang is Department Chair and Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Strangers in the City: Reconfigurations of Space, Power, and Social Networks within China's Floating Population and In Search of Paradise: Middle Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis, and is the coeditor (with Aihwa Ong) of Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3375 KB
  • Print Length: 265 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0801448336
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (17 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0091UEH1I
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,289,434 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars too shallow 10 Sept. 2013
By lwy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This might be a good book for an undergrad introduction course. But as an ethnographic book, it is just too shallow. I feel like a lot of discussion on cyberspace are more nutritious and informative than this. The author just talked to a few people and combined her own experience in her hometown kunming into a book.
This book is also a bit outdated in order to get a comprehensive view of Chinese real estate development in recent years. After the 400 billion program has relieved, the market has changed dramatically.
Also, I don't understand why this author choose kunming to as a fieldwork site. In my eyes, Beijing and shanghai seems to be much better for a ethnography on real estate/middle class. I believe she just want to save the trouble to travel around... While most Chinese scholars tend to research in their acquainted hometown, I still feel suspicious. I mean, if it is not a sensitive topic or topic in great need of social relations, I still think it's better to do research outside one's hometown.
Lastly, the author use a lot of pinyin when she could make direct translation. And she hasn't given good explanation to the pinyin word, which could be very hard for non-native speakers to understand.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major Changes - 18 Aug. 2010
By George Bush - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In less than two decades, China has changed from a predominantly public-housing regime to one with one of the highest private home ownership rates in the world. Class distinctions are emerging via location, spatial exclusion (gated communities) in the socialist land. The new trends have also spurred public engagement among homeowners confronting the encroaching power of developers. The author primarily focuses on changes in his home town of Kunming, but also has more general material from elsewhere in China.

Prior to 1950, private housing had been largely concentrated in the hands of a small number of landlords, with ordinary citizens living in poor, over-crowded conditions on the edge of towns - often made of mud, and self-constructed. In 1950, all private property was taken by the state, and upper-class housing was subdivided, with the original owners given a few rooms (if anything). Conflicts over shared kitchen, courtyard, bathroom space were common, as well as noise and cleanliness. The average living space/capita in urban areas was 3.1 square maters in 1960, rising to 5.2 in 1985. Shanghai and Beijing often had three generations in one room, subdivided by hung sheets. Cooking often took place on portable stoves in the hallways. Restitution for those original seizures has been rare in China because the records were largely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

Public housing in units of 5 - 15,000 became the rule for 80-90% for those in urban areas, distributed and managed by one's work unit. This was perhaps the most important welfare benefit up to the late 1990s. One's rank, as well as the strength of one's employer, affected rooming assignments. Corruption was also a factor. Poor maintenance was the rule, and residents had limited motivation to care for the units due to their sometimes being moved from one to another. Most buyers of new properties choose a mortgage term of 8 - 15 years, even though 30-year terms are available - they don't feel comfortable being in debt.

A 1988 proclamation called for selling off work-unit homes at deep discounts, rents were raised for those who didn't buy, so most did buy. Purpose was to raise capital and unload maintenance problems. The first experiments in land auctions took place in Shenzhen's SEZ in 1987, in Beijing in 2003. Sometimes secret advance agreements made the process a sham - advance agreements were made as to who won and at what price, at the end, the 'winner' was refunded the difference between their public bid and private agreement.

New homes and apartments are sold without being finished out - another one-third of the sales price and 2-3 months are generally required to finish. Sales agents are minimally paid, and given tight quotas. Most construction workers are migrants 20-30 years-old, given low wages, lack job security and benefits, working conditions are unsafe, and they're sometimes cheated out of pay. Living conditions can consist of 50/room, if anything.

Residents are often displaced via sudden notice, misrepresentations by developers' staff as government agents, low-ball valuations. Property-management service firms are another problem - level of fees vs. quality of services, disputes that lead to cutoff of water, electricity, garbage service. Still another problem is 'selling land twice' - promised community land use being later developed, supposedly 'internal shops' opened to the entire area, etc.

The author's material, however, missed the latest trend. 'Capsule apartments' are being built in Beijing for the growing number of jobless and underemployed college graduates. They rent for about $51/month and are targeted at the estimated 3 million recent university graduates seeking employment or earning less than the average starting salary of about $400/month. This is seen as symptomatic of an over-focus on exports vs. internal consumption (36% of GDP, down from 46% in 2000).
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful ethnographic study of the emerging middle class in a metropolis in South West China 17 May 2015
By Hubert Shea - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an ethnographic study of the emerging urban middle class in China through an in-depth investigation of the emergence and development of commodity housing market in a metropolis in South West China and how the housing market reconfigures cultural, social, and economic characteristics of this social class. Kunming is a tier 2 city in South West China where it is also hometown to the author so that it should be relatively easier for the author to make access to important information and to say closer to informants (i.e. real estate players, real estate agents, government officers, and local residents) for personal interviewing purpose. Undertaking ethnographic study is a mounting challenge to scholars and researchers when the research topic is too sensitive to investigate (i.e. power terrain dynamics in the government, clientele ties between government and real estate players, violent conflicts between developers and the residents). The author is the Department Chair and Professor of Anthropology of UC Davis and her specialized research interests include urban studies, middle-classes and consumption practices, critique of post-socialism and neo-liberalism, and China.

The theoretical premise of this book is that the social, political, and cultural repercussions of market reform and socialist transformations in contemporary China are significant and it does seem to be a relationship between class formation and spatial production (P.14) as the Chinese government has taken measures to substitute the growth of public for private housing market since the 1980s (space making, class making’ hypothesis). Professor Zhang maintains that there are myriad characteristics to distinguish between the emerging urban middle class and other classes in Kunming as a consequence of the privatization of the housing market. To put it most succinctly, the middle class is a social class with heterogeneous demographic profiles (P.7) that are different from the western definition. To them, the idea of decent living (the so-called ‘private paradise’) has been changed for the previous 30 years, from a mere physical house in 1980s and community greenery in 1990s to the emphasis of cultural taste and new concepts of living with differentiated lifestyles and cultural orientations in the twentieth-first century (P.79, P.107). Most of them are now living in the urban core. Moreover, the emerging middle class has heightened sense of entitlement and awareness of consumer rights (P.192) and they painstakingly fight against management companies to protect their property values and interests. However, they are living in the era of materialistic determinism in which home ownership can affect their self-worth, social status, love, and conjugal relationship (P.164).

This book provides many unique and valuable research findings on privatization of housing and drastic social changes in China. Chapter 1 provides an admirably succinctly account of the 30-year transformation of the China housing market from public into the private. This book demonstrates that the clientele ties amongst the local authority, private developers, development agents, and management companies are far very complicated because of government malpractices and bribery activities. The recent anti-corrupt and bribery activities against very senior government officers in Kunming have confirmed serious malpractices in resident’s resettlement, development planning, and land auction. Besides, the research findings also reveal serious conundrums with the notion of neo-liberal governmentality in Kunming as vigorous contestations between home owners and developers are very fierce due to mounting power of private authorities in local governance.

In the epilogue chapter, Professor Zhang bearishly concludes that the pursuit of ‘private paradise’ by the middle class could become a mirage because of the repercussions of the 2008 global financial crisis and socioeconomic transformations that have brought insecurities, anxieties, and class tensions (P.216) to them. I concur with Professor Zhang’s view that the real estate market is now encountering tons of market headwinds due to scores of new supply and high inventories in tier 2 and 3 cities (including Kunming) that negatively affect transactions and price. Young people and the lower middle class without home ownership should be difficult to purchase home because of the high house price multiples. I disagree with Professor Zhang’s view that the 30-year privatization of housing has provided capital accumulation opportunities to the upper middle class (SME owners, managerial class, and government officers) who are now enjoying more comfortable living lifestyles.

Although the research focuses on a tier 2 city in China, the depth of valuable data collected from informants via personal interviews, participant observations, and site inspections as well as abundant theoretical analysis are significant contributions to have an advanced understanding of urban studies, social development, middle class, and local governance in China.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A more scholarly text 7 April 2013
By Bradley W. Bleck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a read, this isn't particularly engaging, but the information it contains, for anyone interested in some of the nuances of contemporary China, is well worth than rather unexciting prose. But, this isn't something you read to be excited.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 5 Dec. 2014
By Soohyun Cha - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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