On the Edge

Margaret Hillenbrand’s fascinating On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China. The impossibility of giving up working. A much larger and less fancy collective than tangping–and with much less media coverage, no doubt.

This is exactly the processual glitch that Hao Jingfang nails elegantly in Folding Beijing via her conceit of temporal warehousing—the notion that people can be put to sleep or placed in cold storage until the voodoo of market forces animates their insensible beings for drudgery once again. The difficulty, of course, is that real life is not sci-fi—not quite yet, anyway—and those who have been consigned to zombie citizenship cannot simply be magicked in and out of visibility. As such, they terrorize the fantasy of social harmony in the era of the Chinese dream.