chapter  15
The abrupt rise (and fall) of creative entrepreneurs: socio-economic change, the visitor economy and social conflict in a traditional neighbourhood of Shanghai
WithNON ARKARAPRASERTKUL
Pages 20

During the mid-afternoon of a rather pleasant day in the autumn of 2013, no one expected a visit from more than two dozen officers from the Urban Management Bureau, especially not the residents of one of Shanghai’s most famous traditional alleyway-house neighbourhoods. These officers, also known as chengguan, are not usually welcomed by the locals, as they are often the last resort of the city government in enforcing urban management regulations. Numerous media reports about how the chengguan abused their power in many large Chinese cities did not help to make their presence less fraught and contentious (Human Rights Watch 2012).1 The residents of the Tranquil Light neighbourhood, a pseudonym I will use throughout this chapter,2 were stunned by the number of officials gathered at the south gate of the neighbourhood, who eventually began marching into the main lane. Their blue and white uniforms, as well their white gloves, only added to the growing feeling of dismay among the residents who stood and watched as they dismantled informal structures, temporary tents and parts of buildings piece by piece, hurling the debris into the back of a garbage-collection truck that followed the procession of chengguan vehicles. A sizeable crowd gathered to observe the spectacle, and by four o’clock that afternoon it seemed that no one could focus on their work anymore, especially now that the noise from the dismantling process, as well as the shouting from the people whose belongings were confiscated, filled the alleyway.