Lives of Guanxi
Lives of Guanxi
Chapter 5 shows the specifics of the many different ways that informal “connections” (guanxi关系) operate in Korla, arguing that affective or instrumental ties to agents of the state are perceived and experienced as a “necessity,” not merely as a mode of being corrupt. Such guanxi networks also play a role in normalisation, by further infusing the periphery with informal social structures and cultural norms typical of the core. Cultural transformation is illustrated through the life-history of an ethnically Zhuang woman who is embedded, through extensive guanxi networks, in local Han society. She takes it upon herself to speak on behalf of Han in Xinjiang, forcefully asserting claims of entitlement based on the contribution that “constructors” like herself and other longer-term Han settlers have made in “civilizing” Xinjiang. Guanxi networks help to give the local Han community a cohesiveness which increases their collective political relevance. For the central government, the sense of ownership and belonging that longer-term Han (and “Han”) settlers feel towards Xinjiang is of the utmost importance. Troops can be moved in, buildings built, and people relocated, but these are relatively ephemeral measures, and relatively easy to dislodge, compared to a deeply-felt sense of belonging.
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