Nicholas Loubere

Nicholas Loubere, Associate Senior Lecturer in the Study of Modern China at the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University. His research examines socioeconomic development in rural China, with a particular focus on microcredit and migration.

orcid https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2386-5643

Made in China Journal: Volume 5, Issue 1, 2020 »

Publication date: May 2020
‘Art must not be concentrated in dead shrines called museums. It must be spread everywhere—on the streets, in the trams, factories, workshops, and in the workers’ homes.’ — Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1918 With these words, the great Soviet poet addressed the key question of how to bring art to people and people to art in a new world in which old aristocracies, elites, and their aesthetic privileges were fading away. In the words of art theorist Boris Groys, ‘the world promised by the leaders of the October Revolution was not merely supposed to be a more just one or one that would provide greater economic security, but it was also and in perhaps in even greater measure meant to be beautiful.’ Walking in these steps, the Chinese Revolution was a project of further experimentation and creation in the realm of the relationship between art and the people. The world it created was at once utopian and disfigured, radiant and desolate. While today that world is no longer, the questions it raised about the relationship between the working class, artistic production, and aesthetic appreciation remain with us. This issue of the Made in China Journal offers a collection of essays that examine the ‘work of arts’, intended as the extension of art beyond the confines of the museum and into the spaces of ordinary life and production.

Made in China Journal: Volume 4, Issue 3, 2019 »

Publication date: September 2019
Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realise that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul. — Alexandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956) With these words, Soviet star dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exalted the transformative role of the gulag—where he had been imprisoned for eight years—in reconfiguring his soul. Just like his account of life in the labour camps played a fundamental role in shaping public perceptions of the Soviet labour camps, our views of the Chinese detention system are also widely shaped by the writings and testimonies of former political prisoners, whether victims of the mass campaigns of the Mao era or more recent crackdowns against dissident voices. Reading these accounts, detention easily assumes the tragic connotations of martyrdom, and detainees come to be surrounded by a halo of heroism. But what about those uncountable prisoners who are detained for common crimes or less-noble causes? What about the reality of murderers, thieves, drug addicts, and prostitutes? Is prison a blessing for them too? This issue of the Made in China Journal aims to provide a more balanced account of Chinese experiences of detention by examining situations as diverse as reeducation camps in Xinjiang, forced detox camps for drug addicts, involuntary hospitalisation of people with mental health problems, the contested legacies of labour camps from the Maoist past, and the latest reforms in the fields of Chinese criminal justice. Such grim analyses are also key to understanding the upheavals that are currently taking place in Hong Kong. We should not forget that the popular mobilisations of these past months began in response to attempts by the Hong Kong authorities to pass an extradition bill that would have established a new case-by-case model to transfer fugitives to any jurisdiction that the former British colony lacks a formal agreement with, including mainland China. Reading the accounts included in this issue of the journal, it is not difficult to understand why this became a flashpoint.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 4, Issue 2, 2019 »

Publication date: June 2019
We shall sing the great masses shaken with work, pleasure, or rebellion: we shall sing the multicolored and polyphonic tidal waves of revolution in the modern metropolis; shall sing the vibrating nocturnal fervor of factories and shipyards burning under violent electrical moons; bloated railroad stations that devour smoking serpents; factories hanging from the sky by the twisting threads of spiraling smoke; bridges like gigantic gymnasts who span rivers, flashing at the sun with the gleam of a knife; adventurous steamships that scent the horizon, locomotives with their swollen chest, pawing the tracks like massive steel horses bridled with pipes, and the oscillating flight of airplanes, whose propeller flaps at the wind like a flag and seems to applaud like a delirious crowd. — Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, The Manifesto of Futurism (1909, translated by R.W. Flint) Although the smoking serpents of erstwhile have been replaced by the sinuous lines of aseptic high-speed trains, and steamships have long disappeared from the horizon, these words penned by an Italian poet at the beginning of the twentieth century are a surprisingly apt description of the infrastructural frenzy that has overcome China in recent history. Rushing to catch up after the political turmoil of the twentieth century, over the past four decades the Chinese authorities have been remoulding the urban and rural landscapes in the service of economic growth. Starting from the township and village enterprises and special economic zones of the 1980s, factories have sprung up everywhere in China, boosting a new industrial revolution that has carried the country’s economic miracle well into this century. This was before the Party-state decided that it was time to launch a new green tidal wave of revolution in the now-postmodern metropolis, in an attempt to sever the pillars of spiralling smoke that used to link these plants to the sky (but in so doing, also forcing an entire working class to set their eyes to the ground). New highways and high-speed railways now crisscross the country, enabling the great masses shaken with work, pleasure, and (little) rebellion to travel with an ease and a speed never experienced before. Bridges of unprecedented length span rivers and seas, bringing together places and people that do not always desire to be connected. If there is a place where the futurist utopia of the early twentieth century has come to fruition, it is China. It is to this infrastructural fever that we dedicate this issue of the Made in China Journal.
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Afterlives of Chinese Communism »

Political Concepts from Mao to Xi

Publication date: June 2019
Afterlives of Chinese Communism comprises essays from over fifty world- renowned scholars in the China field, from various disciplines and continents. It provides an indispensable guide for understanding how the Mao era continues to shape Chinese politics today. Each chapter discusses a concept or practice from the Mao period, what it attempted to do, and what has become of it since. The authors respond to the legacy of Maoism from numerous perspectives to consider what lessons Chinese communism can offer today, and whether there is a future for the egalitarian politics that it once promised.

Dog Days »

Made in China Yearbook 2018

Publication date: April 2019
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2018 was the year of the ‘earthly dog’. In the middle of the long, hot, and feverish dog days of the summer of 2018, some workers at Shenzhen Jasic Technology took their chances and attempted to form an independent union. While this action was met by the harshest repression, it also led to extraordinary demonstrations of solidarity from small groups of radical students from all over the country, which in turn were immediately and severely suppressed. China’s year of the dog was also imbued with the spirit of another canine, Cerberus—the three-headed hound of Hades—with the ravenous advance of the surveillance state and the increasing securitisation of Chinese society, starting from the northwestern region of Xinjiang. This Yearbook traces these latest developments in Chinese society through a collection of 50 original essays on labour, civil society, and human rights in China and beyond, penned by leading scholars and practitioners from around the world.

Made in China Journal: Volume 4, Issue 1, 2019 »

Publication date: March 2019
Sun and moon have no light left, earth is dark; / Our women’s world is sunk so deep, who can help us? / Jewelry sold to pay this trip across the seas, Cut off from my family I leave my native land. / Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison, / With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits. / Alas, this delicate kerchief here / Is half stained with blood, and half with tears. — Qiu Jin, 1904 (translated by Jonathan Spence) As she bode farewell to China in the summer of 1904, early revolutionary Qiu Jin penned these words to bemoan the fate of herself and of uncountable Chinese women. She was leaving behind her husband—whom she had married out of obligation—and two young children to go to study in Japan. Having returned to China, she would continue to engage in revolutionary activities, and was ultimately beheaded by the Qing authorities in July 1907 at the age of 31. Martyrdom made her into a legend. More than a century later, bound feet belong to another age and kerchieves stained with blood and tears have become an overused trope in revolutionary literature. Still, Qiu Jin’s spirit is more alive than ever in a whole new generation of Chinese feminists who are fighting for women’s rights—a renewed attempt to smash the bell jar of China’s patriarchal society. This issue of the Made in China Journal offers a series of perspectives on the plight and struggles of women and sexual minorities in today’s China.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 3, Issue 4, 2018 »

Publication date: December 2018
In December 2018, the Chinese authorities commemorated the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. These four decades of unprecedented economic growth and transformation have been rooted in a fundamental socioeconomic restructuring. Contemporary China has changed from a largely agrarian society predominantly inhabited by peasants, to a rapidly urbanising one, characterised by a floating populace moving back and forth between rural and urban spaces, which are in a continuous state of flux. Going hand in hand with China’s ascent into modernity is the subordination of rural areas and people. While rural China has historically been a site of extraction and exploitation, in the post-reform period this has intensified, and rurality itself has become a problem. This issue of Made in China focuses on the labour that these attempts to restructure and reformulate rural China have entailed, and the ways in which they have transformed rural lives and communities.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 3, Issue 3, 2018 »

Publication date: September 2018
The previous decade saw widespread discussions about the role of the Internet in reshaping power relations in Chinese society. New media—it was widely believed—would give voice to the poor and downtrodden, allow citizens to better supervise government activity, and foster lively cultural exchanges. Workers would also benefit from this, as the Internet provided them with the tools needed to bring their grievances into the spotlight and enhance their ability to connect with their peers to establish new forms of solidarity. A decade later, what is left of that cyber-utopian discourse? This issue of Made in China offers a series of essays that attempt to answer this question against the backdrop of the latest developments in Chinese politics and society.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 3, Issue 2, 2018 »

Publication date: June 2018
Labour activism has undergone significant transformation in China over the last decade. Between the mid-2000s and mid-2010s, an increase in labour protests seemed to herald a growing and more self-confident labour movement. A series of high-profile collective actions that took place in the early 2010s brought forward a time of renewed optimism, during which the public debate on Chinese labour came to be dominated by the idea of China’s workers ‘awakening’ and taking their fate into their own hands. Far from the optimism of those years, today the effects of economic slowdown and the tightening of civil society have thrown China’s workers into a state of uncertainty and disorientation, and the Chinese labour movement has once again found itself at an impasse. This issue of Made in China takes a look at the current conjuncture.
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Gilded Age »

Made in China Yearbook 2017

Publication date: April 2018
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2017 was the year of the ‘fire rooster’, an animal often associated with the mythical fenghuang, a magnificently beautiful bird whose appearance is believed to mark the beginning of a new era of peaceful flourishing. Considering the auspicious symbolism surrounding the fenghuang, it is fitting that on 18 October 2017, President Xi Jinping took to the stage of the Nineteenth Party Congress to proclaim the beginning of a ‘new era’ for Chinese socialism. However, in spite of such ecumenical proclamations, it became immediately evident that not all in China would be welcome to reap the rewards promised by the authorities. Migrant workers, for one, remain disposable. Lawyers, activists and even ordinary citizens who dare to express critical views also hardly find a place in Xi’s brave new world. This Yearbook traces the stark new ‘gilded age’ inaugurated by the Chinese Communist Party. It does so through a collection of more than 40 original essays on labour, civil society and human rights in China and beyond, penned by leading scholars and practitioners from around the world.

Made in China Journal: Volume 3, Issue 1, 2018 »

Publication date: March 2018
On 12 May 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan county, Sichuan province. Felt as far as Beijing, the tremors caused horrific damage: 69,229 people died and 17,923 went missing. Yet, the aftermath of the seism was also a time of hope—with Chinese citizens from all over the country outdoing each other to show solidarity with the victims. As local governments began to recognise the importance of NGOs in providing disaster relief and social services, 2008 was widely seen as a ‘Year Zero’ for Chinese civil society. At that time, hardly anybody could have foreseen the wave of repression against civil society that was to come and that is today the norm. This issue looks back at the legacy of this disaster, and the ways in which state and civil society actors renegotiate their positions during ‘states of emergency’.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 2, Issue 4, 2017 »

Publication date: December 2017
This issue includes a series of essays that examine different declinations of precarity experienced by Chinese workers. The contributions explore precarity from both conceptual and empirical points of view, focussing on aspects such as the nexus between precarious work and migration, the contentious relationship between precarity and class, new divisions of labour in the Chinese workplace, the consequences of layoffs in the state sector, and the fallout of the ongoing environmental crackdown.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 2, Issue 3, 2017 »

Publication date: September 2017
In today’s globalised and interconnected world, Chinese labour issues have become much more than merely a local matter. With China’s political and economic power increasing by the day, it is imperative not only to assess how this growing influence affects labour relations in other countries, but also to abandon an ‘exceptional’ view of China by engaging in more comparative research. In this sense, the study of Chinese labour indeed provides a powerful lens—or perhaps a mirror—to further our understanding of the contemporary world and our potential futures. With this aim in mind, in this issue we publish a series of essays that either frame Chinese labour comparatively or examine its transnational implications.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 2, Issue 2, 2017 »

Publication date: June 2017
In June 2017, the government of the United States announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Accords, severely undermining the global effort to contain climate change. Since then, China has entered the fray, attempting to portray itself as a world leader on environmental issues. While global attention has focussed on China’s top-down environmental efforts, this issue considers the engagement of Chinese citizens with state policies on the environment, and looks into their potential for articulating workable grassroots alternatives. In particular, we consider the management of public resources—the so-called ‘commons’.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 2, Issue 1, 2017 »

Publication date: March 2017
With the arrest of yet another activist, the airing of yet another public confession, the closure of yet another NGO working for the weak and disenfranchised, and the passing of yet another repressive law, the world has come to view Chinese civil society as if it were on its deathbed. But maybe what is dying is just a dream of civil society with little basis in reality. While we mourn the death of an ideal, it is imperative that we overcome our sorrow to look at the momentous changes that are currently taking place in the realm of Chinese civil society. In this issue, we offer a series of perspectives on these developments.
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Disturbances in Heaven »

Made in China Yearbook 2016

Edited by: Ivan Franceschini, Kevin Lin, Nicholas Loubere
Publication date: February 2017
Labour and civil society are two fundamental components of international discussions concerning China today. Whether it is the arrest of labour activists or rights lawyers, the adoption of new industrial policies, or the passing of draconian rules on non-governmental organisations, the events occurring in these areas in China often make global headlines. At the same time, in spite of the grave challenges for workers and activists, the Chinese labour movement is witnessing significant developments, with the occurrence of some of the largest strikes in decades. All of this calls for more serious analysis from both scholars and practitioners, as well for critical engagement with a broader global audience interested in forging international solidarity. It is with these aims in mind that we have compiled this Made in China Yearbook 2016: Disturbances in Heaven, a collection of original articles by both scholars and activists, analysing the most important trends in Chinese labour and civil society over the past year. With its unique blend of in-depth scholarly work written in a direct, accessible style, this volume will allow readers to situate events and policies related to Chinese labour and civil society in a wider context, and serve as an indispensable reference book for international activists, practitioners, and policy-makers.

Made in China Journal: Volume 1, Issue 4, 2016 »

Publication date: December 2016
In this issue, we present three distinct perspectives on how the party-state manages and controls Chinese society. First, we consider the role of labour law in China as a vehicle for reinforcing capitalist hegemony. We then look into the limitations of the welfare system in relation to migrant labour. Finally, we challenge some widely-held assumptions about the political nature of land-related social movements in the Chinese countryside. The issue also includes a forum on how precarisation has impacted the Chinese workforce and an article that reflects on the role of poetry as a form of resistance.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 1, Issue 3, 2016 »

Publication date: September 2016
The core of this issue is dedicated to a special section on Chinese labour and investment in Africa, with a specific focus on Ghana and Zambia. You will also find an analysis of the current situation of the Chinese working classes and the prospects for the political representation of labour in China, as well as an examination of the struggles that Chinese workers face when they attempt to access the legal system. The issue also includes an overview of recent worker struggles in India and an essay on Zhao Liang’s Behemoth.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 1, Issue 2, 2016 »

Publication date: June 2016
Besides the usual summaries of recent events in China, in this issue you will find articles on the struggles of Walmart workers in China, the limits of the ‘rights awakening’ of Chinese workers, and the political implications of resorting to microcredit to alleviate unemployment. Included is also a Forum in which prominent legal experts put the concept of the ‘rule of law’ in China in a wider historical and political perspective and a compendium of the new Law on the Management of Foreign NGOs’ Activities within Mainland China.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 1, Issue 1, 2016 »

Publication date: March 2016
In this first issue, you will find summaries of recent events that have taken place in China, as well as a series of columns on specific topics, such as the recent wave of protests in the Chinese state sector and the expected impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on labour rights. We devote the core of the first issue to the plight of Chinese labour NGOs, contextualising it through a debate between three prominent international labour experts. Finally, we celebrate the award of the prestigious Joseph Levenson Prize to Luigi Tomba, a long-standing researcher of Chinese labour.
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