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The Good Life in Contemporary China

The Good Life in Contemporary China

 Tung-Yi Kho

 School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

ABSTRACT

 Drawing upon some 30-months of ethnographic field research in China’s feted Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen, I examine here two competing visions and practices of the “good life” in contemporary China. I have labeled these the Modernist and the Relationist practices of the good life respectively. Although Chinese conceptions of the good life at the level of the state and of the general populace are today explicitly dominated by the project of modernization in all its grasping materiality and technological glory, my paper reveals that the capacity of a modernist lifestyle to engender well-being, much less the good life, is far from assured. Meanwhile, my research in Shenzhen disclosed an alternative, Relationist, conception of well-being that was seldom expressed or associated with the good life despite also being ever present. This was a mode of well-being that was constantly being re-created in the course of everyday, mundane social interactions. Because of the general nature of their occurrence, they are not typically associated by the Chinese with well-being or the good life, appearing instead to be unselfconscious practices that are deeply rooted in the Chinese consciousness. The Relationist mode of well-being stands in contrast to the Modernist variant in both its nature and objectives, prompting us to ask: what makes the good life in China and beyond?

 

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Pakistan Journal of Zoology

December

Vol. 51, Iss. 6, Pages 1999-2399

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