Transcending Boundaries

Zhejiangcun: the Story of a Migrant Village in Beijing

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Author: Biao XIANG
This book sheds new light on state-society relations in contemporary China by demonstrating how rigid official boundaries internal to the state system, which were essential for the state’s control over society, have paradoxically facilitated the growth of new social spaces. Based on long years of fieldwork, the book takes us to a highly unlikely site in Beijing – Zhejiangcun (literally ‘Zhejiang village’), the biggest migrant community in China, located only five kilometres south of Tian’anmen Square -- where 100,000 migrants, mostly from Wenzhou, have organised a vibrant garment industry despite regular state crackdowns. It documents the spontaneous evolution of Zhejiangcun into a hub of nationwide migrant business networks transcending officially imposed boundaries. The book also makes use of Chinese folk insights and philosophical traditions as analytical tools for tackling fluid social relationships unconfined to physical space.

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XIANG Biao, Ph.D. (2003 Oxon.) is a Former Research Officer for the International Organization for Migration and currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National University of Singapore. He has conducted in-depth field research on migrants in China, India and Australia and has published extensively on migration and social change.
"This wonderful ethnography … traces the fascinating history of Zhejiangcun’s survival and rise to prominence against all odds. This lively tale sheds much light on the tensions between state and society and the sources of economic dynamism in China today. [A]n especially rich ethnography, which could only have been produced by someone who has spent many years on the scene."
Susan Greenhalgh
University of California, Irvine
Population and Development Review. 2008. 34(1): 182

"An invaluable contribution to the understanding of state-society relationships in the post-Mao era [and] a brilliant in-depth account of the conflicts caused by imposing a governance system deeply rooted in territorial administration on migrant networks and resources that transcend these territorial boundaries. […] This is a must-read book for anyone who has an interest in the impact of migration on state-society relationships, and for those who would like a vivid account of how real people are bounded by state control and, at the same time, transcend and change state systems."
Jeong Jong-Ho
Seoul National University
The China Journal. 2007. No. 58, July: 132-133

"[A] classic…[one of] the 'must-reads' for the Chinese studies."
Wang Danning, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Asian Anthropology Vol. 7. 2008. 138-142

"This book is as much about migrants as it is about the Chinese state and society. […] Xiang’s deep understanding of and extensive participation in the community has permitted a view “from the inside out,” while also addressing broad questions about state and society. […] This is an important work based on a solid study of burning questions in Chinese society, and it should appeal to all scholars and researchers interested in migration, rural-urban relations, and/or state and society in China."
C. Cindy Fan
University of California, Los Angeles
China Review International. 2006. 3(1): 293-297

"The Chinese version [of the book] has become one of the best acclaimed recent anthropological publications in China. […] Apart from being an excellent exemplar of ethnographic study of migrant communities and state-society relations, the theoretical insights of the book also make it extremely valuable for scholars in the fields of anthropology, sociology, politics and Asian studies."
Na Liu
University of Manchester
Asian Journal of Social Science. 2008. 36(1): 142-143

"A truly significant contribution to the field of Chinese migration studies. […]When Transcending Boundaries is compared with existing works on overseas Chinese migration, readers will face some unavoidable and creative questions concerning the issue of migration generally, and the conflicts that surround it."
Wasana Wongsurawat
National University of Singapore
Population, Space and Place. 2008. 14:161–162

" Transcending Boundaries is a compelling story about China's post-socialist reforms, which traces a group of migrants from southeast China's Wenzhou Prefecture, Zhejiang province, who eventually established their semi-permanent enclave Zhejiangcun (Zhejiang Village) in Beijing City."
Shu-Min Huang, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (2008), 14
Transcending boundaries is a compelling story about China’s post-socialist reforms. By using personal recollections from early settlers in Zhejiangcun, Xiang Biao […] (re)constructs nuanced, vivid, and often touching narratives.”
Shu-Min Huang, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 2008. 14, 702-03


All those interested in migration, civil society and economic liberalization in contemporary China. Sociology, anthropology and Chinese studies libraries in institutions that teach or research modern China will have to have this book.