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Taomo Zhou is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, specialising in modern Chinese and Southeast Asian history. Taomo’s first book, Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia and the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2019), is a Foreign Affairs 'Best Books of 2020' and has received an Honorable Mention for the Harry J. Benda Prize from the Association of Asian Studies. It examines how two of the world’s most populous countries interacted between 1945 and 1967, when the concept of citizenship was contested and the boundaries of political mobilisation were blurred. Taomo is working on a new research project on Shenzhen and its connections with the special economic zones, export processing zones, and free ports across Southeast Asia.

Revolution Offshore, Capitalism Onshore

Ships and the Changing Relationship between China and the World

This essay tells a backstory of the Belt and Road Initiative by tracing the voyages of the Minghua and two other ships managed by the China Ocean Shipping Bureau—both as mobile vessels at sea and as a permanent presence on land. When mobile at sea in the Mao period, these ships functioned as vessels not only for passengers and commodities, but also for Maoist ideology. The Minghua’s retirement to Shenzhen then coincided with China’s transition from the Mao to the Deng era. Having bid farewell to the sea, the ship became part of the city’s landscape and was turned into a dynamic experiment field for the market economy and a medium through which ideas travel and identities shift

From the Third Front to the Second Line: The Construction Soldiers of Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a migrant city, and every migrant must cross multiple borders—physical and administrative, social and cultural—to fully belong in the city. The 20,000 members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Engineering Corps (中国人民解放军基本建设工程兵), who arrived in Shenzhen between 1979 and 1982, were the earliest and largest batch of state-sponsored migrants during Reform and Opening […]

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