Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 10 months 3 weeks ago

In Phase 0, I chose my topic, the Change and Development of Xizhou, through a process of teacher feedback and eliminating bad topics. In Phase 1 I came up with my list of big questions, and did some background research on the topic. And in Phase 2 I conducted a few interviews with my teachers to find helpful research. Now I am in Phase 3, where I will be posting everything I learned about the topic.

Background Information (From Phase 1):

Yunnan's geography is problematic: Yunnan is 90% mountainous, which is bad for both industry and agriculture. And a lack of river and little incentive by the government to build roads and rails meant that Yunnan is one of the poorest and underdeveloped province in China. By 2016, Yunnan's GDP ranked 29th in China, where there were only 31 provinces, despite the fact that Yunnan had the seventh-largest land area.[1,2]

When Chiang Kai-Shek formed the Nationalist Government, Yunnan was theoretically part of China, but in practice was a separate entity. Chiang had wisely named Nanjing the capital, away from the provinces that were wary of his government. But this approach meant that Yunnan was ignored, and facing many severe crises, Yunnan was largely left on its own. [2,3]

Yunnan's geography has been the main reason of Yunnan's backward socioeconomic system. From 1927 to 1945 Yunnan was controlled by a militarist warlord by the name of Long Yun, who was eventually overthrew by a coup by the famous field marshal Du Yuming. Under Long Yun, who was a reluctant ally of Chiang Kai-Shek, provided the Nationalist Government with some soldiers and matériel, but was wary of Chiang taking advantage and stripping him of his command. This concern was not entirely unfounded: Chiang had done exactly that with many other provinces. This uneasy integration between the Nationalist Government and many of its provinces is one of the causes of the largely failed war effort. This uneasiness, in addition to separatist movements, would prove problematic in the future. [3]

During the war itself, Yunnan was used as a forward base to launch the Burma Campaign, which was a largely failed initiative by American Gen. Joseph Stilwell. Yunnan itself is home to a railroad line, which ran from Rangoon, the capital of Burma, to Chongqing, the capital of the Nationalist Government. This line, aptly named the Burma Road, was crucial in resupplying China with goods to continue the war effort. But the Burma Road was soon cut off by Japanese invasion, so China was left isolated. [3]

Although Rana Mitter has largely portrayed the negatives of the war against Japan, which strained the poor district for resources, positive benefits also arose. For example Chiang Kai-Shek ordered China to move many of its prestigious universities, most notably when Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Nankai University moved inlands and formed the temporary National Southwestern Associated University. When Chiang sensed danger in the tensing relationship with Japan, he ordered factories and infrastructure to be moved inland along the two great rivers. This ushered in an age of rapid growth for Yunnan, which played host to many of these new developments. [2,3]

Yunnan changed significantly under Chairman Mao, who accelerated reforms through a policy called "Political Frontier Defence". The aim was to convert every member of the proletariat into the "lofty humans" proclaimed by Lin Biao in 1967. This policy was devastating for Yunnan's ethnic minority population and left behind bitter recollections. [5]

No matter the cause, the end result was devastating. The most successful farmers were framed as being "capitalists", and the traditional methods of working have been rejected, termed as "backwards and primitive". [5]

In the summer of '66, with all the power concentrated in the hands of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Beijing ordered a commission under the military to assume control of Yunnan, and thus began 17 months of military rule. Even after the provincial government was created, the military still had a vested stake in the Yunnan provincial government, as the government assigned Lieutenant General Tan Furen, the party secretary of the time. [5]

As Yunnan descended into a state of unrest, the government decided to blame "a tiny handful of class enemies" for the disruption, and proceeded to kill 37,000 and imprison/torture/injure 300,000 more, by a historian's estimate. [5]

As chaos descended upon Yunnan, the bitterness of the lasting racism, ultra-leftist beliefs, and heavy-handed government repression has left a long scar on Yunnan. [5]

Things changed again under Deng Xiaoping, who waged a war against Vietnam. Yunnan, who shared a border with Vietnam, was to become a frontier (again) for another struggle. The Yunnan populace was enlisted to support the war effort. By calculation and statistics, it took 4 Yunnan civilians to provide for 1 PLA soldier, and 8-9 civilians stretcher-bearers to carry 1 wounded soldier back to China. These men had to struggle through the wilderness that was the border, often at an extremely slow pace, sometimes only going 200 meters in an hour. This concluded a failed war against Vietnam, not just at the expense of soldiers but also at the expense of the Yunnan population. [6]

And since I started by introducing Yunnan's isolation, it only seems fit I end with Yunnan's policy of integration.

In 1978, China began an open-door policy, and revived trade in the Yunnan region. Yunnan's main trade partners include Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. [4]

Yunnan's trade patterns indicate that difficult international relationships have put a stopper on trade and integration. It was only until 1991 that China began establishing policies of economic integration. Trade proved beneficial to the landlocked Yunnan, which was at a disadvantage compared to the prosperous Yangtze River regions. Soon, trade between Yunnan and its neighboring countries far outstripped the amount of goods imported and exported to other Chinese provinces. For example, trade with Yunnan made up of more than 99 percent of the trade between Myanmar and China. This goes to show that economic integration has had positive benefits on Yunnan's struggling economy. [4]

A note about the research process: To put together this timeline of cause and effects, I have spent hours looking through books, traversing deleted databases, keyword-searching books with little relevant information, and looked through pages with conflicting views. So hopefully this provides a thorough and rich explanation of Yunnan's history. [4]

Information from 3-to-5's:

Many children were brought to vandalize iconic structures. For example, Mr. Du, the antique dealer, was brought by his brothers and cousins to vandalize the upper gate in Sifangjie. They burned the wood for cooking fuel.

Information from Local Contacts:

I will format the information that the bullet points will be what the contact says, and the rest will be me interpreting and analyzing what that person said.

Today (March 15, 2018) I talked to Mr. H about the Cultural Revolution in China. He was very eager and very nice, and seemed to enjoy our conversation. So this was his scoop:

  • Mr. H came from a poor family, and there was never enough to eat.
  • Salvation came when the Communists took over and made sure to distribute a piece of land for everyone. People were classified as either landlords, bourgeois, or working class.
  • The landlords were punished most severely, followed by the bourgeois, and the working class was rewarded. Everything was redistributed, and the power station that was built by the four major landlords in the area was jury-rigged to provide power for everyone.
  • But the meager power output meant that no one had any power enough to do anything.
  • Mr. H's family was classified as working class, and assigned a plot of land not far from here. The land was meant for farmland, and the grant meant they could live in slightly better conditions.
  • But soon after, the Communist Party realized that production was not maximized with a family farming a plot of land, and initiated a program where a few plots were combined and the families on those plots could work together and help each other. But then again, the Communist Party decided, in the spirit of China's emergence as a global power, to ramp up production. All the plots of land were collectivized, and the families formed work-teams of 200 or so, all working on the same plot.
  • Against the true spirit of Marxism-Leninism, hard workers were rewarded with a point system. Your points were determined by how hard you worked, and translated into how much food you had.
  • But a constant problem that plagued China was the food shortages.
  • Without advanced scientific technology (Current yields of rice is 3 times as much as 1966 levels of yield, the government planned carefully how the food was distributed. 
  • But in 1966, the government soon lost control of the situation. Work-teams used underhanded tricks, such as piling all the rice in one acre to look as if they had superior farming methods.
  • Work-teams bragged and boasted about their high levels of production, and as a result the government increased rations.
  • Compounding the problem was Mao's initiative to use pots and pans to produce steel to match that of the US and UK.
  • Soviet architects and planners were sent to China to build infrastructure, but demanded heavy payments in return.
  • When I asked: "Did the Soviets succeed in boosting infrastructure?" he replied: "No. No one could get anything done in the chaos."
  • A huge famine occurred.
  • Children snooped over to steal whatever they could.
  • Many people began selling parts of their houses so they could eat.
  • People drank so much water that their legs swelled and their bellies became heavy.

My take on this system is based on governmental planning conflicting with the actual reality. The government was well-intentioned, but lacked crucial knowledge on how much rice was actually produced and what was actually a realistic goal. The initiative to ramp up steel production was an unrealistic goal, yet the government lacked knowledge on the logistic difficulties of producing steel. The government also used novel systems to try and solve problems, but those systems often proved not to work.

Today (March 20, 2018) I decided to visit the antique shop to talk to the owner, Mr. Du, about antiques and the history that came with him. The first thing that struck me was how there were ancient equivalents to a lot of modern technology.

  • For example, we scan ID cards, but dynastic China has plates with specific characters on them that would grant you entry.
  • We use weather maps to determine where to build a house, they have special jars in which they put a fish in.
  • You would bury the fish jar and if the fish was alive next morning, the place was a good place for a house. Another historical aspect is the unearthing of many of these jars. The jar is left where is was buried, and people would unearth these jars in locations of old houses. this has lead to the chipping of a lot of pottery, as the shovelhead struck the delicate jars.
  • Now the government has put a ban on such unearthing practices, and this is part of a wider initiative to preserve both environment and culture.

Another interesting insight was on the Cultural Revolution.

  • The Red Guards would raid houses with antiques, and secretly sell them on to antique collectors.
  • When asked about how good they were at identifying valuable antique, the owner replied that while the Red Guards themselves weren't very good, the antique collectors would teach the Red Guards on what was valuable, what was not valuable, and which ones were fake.
  • But it is no stretch to say that those that did not cooperate with owners and just sold their wares on the open market often got scammed.
  • Because the Red Guards were uneducated youths, they could not seem to discern what was good pottery by themselves.
  • The Red Guards' lack of appreciation for beauty and excellence was in stark contrast with the taste of many of the high government officials.
  • When Yuan Shikai's "dynasty" ended, many of his high officials were from Dali, and were allowed to bring back some money.
  • Yuan Shikai himself had very good taste, and ordered some of the finest ceramics and potters to commission some wares for him, and when he died the officials declined the money but instead chose to take a few pieces of pottery home instead.

All of this goes to show the cultural degradation that was happening during the Cultural Revolution. Chen Yi, the Head of the Foreign Ministry at the time, was forced to address the problem: "It is no big deal if someone owns ancient and foreign things, if people purchased them with their own money, it's no crime... I don't approve of searching homes and locking things away. It's no crime to keep ancient books, ancient paintings, and antiques. Be very careful not to break antiques..." The very fact that Chen Yi, the Head of the Foreign Ministry was forced to make such a statement emphasizes the cultural situation that saw China from the greatest cultural power to a country where the Head of the Foreign Ministry has to remind people not to break antiques..

This small segment further goes to provide insight on the Cultural Revolution and the cultural change that was happening. Usually, culture changes and adapts, but the Cultural Revolution reverses that trend. It is entirely palpable that a lot of Xizhou culture has been destroyed by the Cultural Revolution, and what is left is but a fraction of the Bai culture. Even so, the culture is still the star of the tourism show.

Today (March 26, 2018) I talked to Mr. Zhao about policy, and I realized an important point. Because most of the people here were illiterate and confused by what was happening at the top of the power pyramid, they did not feel the effects nor understand the reasons behind policies practiced with moderation. Mao's extreme tugai (land reform) and wenge (Cultural Revolution) were so powerful that they were felt by the citizens of Xizhou, but Deng Xiaoping's more moderate gaigekaifang (Reform and Opening) were not felt by the people in Xizhou. They felt the improving living standards, of course, but they could not feel the individual policies. What was so different about Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin? So what if the CCP was ramping up steel production? This shows one of the main limits of my topics, which is namely the subtlety of policy that makes it harder for people to discern the effects. Mr. Zhao just said that if they were living happy lives, who cared what was happening at the top. I also noticed the Yuanzikou owner's husband's father cited the same effect. When asked about Xi Jinping, he asked: "So what if he extended his term limit? We have good food and a roof over our heads, so why complain?" So my inquiry project well mainly be focused on what people experienced, supplemented by a few fact-checks against scholarly articles.

And today (March 19, 2018) I went back to Mr. H about the production teams and communes. I started the conversation by asking about the 80s and 90s, but talke drifted back to the production teams and the communes.  Continuing from the last story, he talked about the production teams.

  • First, referring back to the Maoist years, land was shared between a few families who assisted each other. But to ramp up production, Mao ordered that the groups merge into larger groups and start sharing their land. And their merit was judged on how much a production team produced.
  • After Deng Xiaoping took power, land was privatized again, and his family was awarded another plot of land.
  • In Xizhou village, there were three production teams, each with about 2000 people, and named (creatively) the 8th, the 9th, and the 10th.
  • His family was part of the 10th, and the 10th had two plots of land, one near the village gate and another near the market.
  • The teams depended on which group you happened to be from in the previous years of cooperative farming.
  • Not all pieces of land were equal, and the 9th got the low-hanging fruit, with rich and fertile soil.
  • In their plot of land, a soybean plant would yield from one to three soybeans. But in the fertile soil controlled by the 9th, a soybean plan often yielded 4 soybeans.
  • Because no matter the production difference, or the tax imposed by the government, everyone had enough to eat.
  • Production per acre had increased from 600-700 jin per acre to 1000 jin per acre, due to superior technology.

This represented a turning point in Chinese history, where China threw off the shackles of food constraints and started its march towards global superpower. This story goes to show that growth is a natural phenomenon, and illustrates that China could have done without the extreme measures imposed by Mao to achieve the growth it was hoping for. These two stories illustrates a section of my project, which is based on governmental top-down influence on the lives of people and the culture of Xizhou. Top-down influence, however well-meant, often ends up doing more harm than good. Bad memories such as these effects the elders who live in Xizhou, as they must live with their troubling history. This also goes to show that governmental policy has changed significantly from planned-economy to more liberal laissez-faire policies, and has moved from cultural repulsion to cultural promotion, and we can compare the results of different government regimes.

Today (March 19, 2018) I also went to talk with the owner of Xiong Yan, a restaurant in Sifangjie, about his stint in the military.

  • He joined the military in 1992, and was stationed in a small town, 80 km from the China-Vietnam border.
  • Interactions with locals were kept to a bare minimum, and it was difficult to apply for leave and leave the village.
  • Locals were glad that there were people who needed to buy products, but again, there was not much interaction allowed.
  • "What if there were spies in the village?" he asked with a laugh.
  • I asked him whether there were problems on the border, or disturbances. The answer was that things were relatively peaceful after the Sino-Vietnamese war ended some time ago.

But the very fact that there were soldiers stationed as far as 80 km from the border told a different story. Going back to my pre-Microcampus research, in theory Yunnan was opening its gates, but undoubtedly the government was still wary of the few nations that bordered China. The former reflects Deng Xiaoping's record of gaigekaifang (Which means reforms and opening of the economy, while the latter reflects the militarist Maoist policies previous to Deng Xiaoping. He said that they were nowhere near the border, and had no interactions with Vietnamese citizens. His account shows how China's sour relationship with Vietnam is reflected in Yunnan's policies, and the scars that the Sino-Vietnamese war still leaves on China. 

Today (March 21, 2018) I visited Yuanzikou, a restaurant off a street from Sifangjie. The husband of the boss happened to be ex-military, and we had a long conversation with him.

  • At one point, Vietnamese revolutionaries fleeing Vietnam made it across the border with their firearms.
  • The weapons filled 2-3 trucks.
  • China was also forced to exact payments from Vietnamese crossing the border, at a rate which amounted to about 100 RMB per crossing in today's money.
  • In another case, the Laos military jailed and detained some Chinese people over logging rights.
  • Something else he told me about is arresting smugglers from the three countries. From time to time, a smuggler would be reported, and the army would be sent to deal with him. Once a smuggler managed to kill one of his squad, as the army was betrayed my informants who were paid by the smugglers.

Right off the bat, the sheer number of military personnel and regiments surprised me: this implies that China really does not seem to trust Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar, no matter the diplomatic sweet-talk. This may also be because of the instability in those regions: all these cases goes to show just how unstable the China-Vietnam-Laos-Myanmar relationships were, with multiple cases of what would be considered diplomatic crises. After writing this, I did some research about China's relationship between its three neighbors. Sure enough, a number of incidents with Laos has made the news, and old scars from the Sino-Vietnamese wars were showing. These relationships would play a crucial role in Yunnan's development.

Today (March 22, 2018) I went back to Yuanzikou. It turned out that the father of the boss was also ex-military and fought in the Vietnam War. He talked about the interdynamic between China, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and the United States. 

  • The reason was the conflict and the need to prove itself against the Soviet Union, and the deteriorating diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Union.
  • He reminisced about American bomber planes bombing Vietnam to shreds, and he told us about the Soviet-Vietnamese alliance, Soviet-manufactured guns and artillery were purchased.
  • When asked about how the relationship between China and the Soviet Union, he thought about it, and shook his head firmly.
  • He told me about the logistics of the war. Huge numbers of people died, with the People's Liberation Army admitting 7000 dead and 15000 wounded, and the Vietnamese claiming 100,000 civilian dead due to Chinese scorched-earth tactics.
  • There was a massive buildup of forces, with 40,000 PLA soldiers and 60,000 Vietnamese troops lined up along the border.
  • In the end, the war was resolved by diplomacy rather than surrender, with both sides claiming victory. I was fact-checking his version of events against scholars' analysis, and it was mostly correct.

His only inaccuracy was with regards to the reason. Peter Tsouras, military intelligence analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency cited multiple other reasons. For one, the Vietnamese success against American meant that Vietnam was a threat to China's security. For another, China needed to use strength to prevent Vietnam from invading Cambodia and attacking Thailand. And thirdly, Deng Xiaoping wanted to punish Vietnam for choosing the Soviet Union as its patron, and prove the PLA leadership, which still dates to the Maoist years, was hopeless and problematic. But as a mere soldier, he seemed to have grasped what happened very accurately, and shows that the while the leadership may have had incentive to start a war, the rank-and-file preferred peace. I gleaned this from the fact that he seemed repulsed by the war, rather than excited about the war effort. Even though the war has served all of its purposes, the rank-and-file still were not happy about the war.

These 3 talks with former military personnel illustrates another section of my project, which is influence from foreign powers. Xizhou is close to the border between China, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. In addition to the occasional military conflict, the relationship would also play a large role in Xizhou's culture. The Viet people established a colony in 100 B.C, which extended all the way to present-day Shanghai until they were conquered by the Han Chinese. The Tang dynasty took over most of the kingdom, but did not take over the Red River delta. This means that Vietnam and China share a close cultural connection. But in modern China, Yunnan's economy is influenced by trade with Vietnam and other countries. In conclusion, it would be good to build some knowledge on China's southern neighbors in order to build a fuller understanding of Xizhou.

I also visited Ms. Wang, a shopkeeper, about more recent developments (March 19, 2018).

  • She said that there were plans to build a road that lead right into Sifangjie, bulldozing the traditionalist stone paths and building a small stream, almost a gutter, in the middle of the road.
  • She expressed worry that the bulldozing would force her to close down her store, and was worried about future income.
  • I prompted her and asked her if it had to do with the new Belt and Road initiative, and she replied that that was one of the reasons.
  • Construction projects like these have the potential to drive away tourists, which is also worrisome.
  • For example, the nearby Shuanglang, which is known for its stunning lakeside view, was closed down for construction. It lasted for a long time, and that was really bad for tourism.
  • I asked her about the pros and cons of heavy tourism in the area. Quite predictably, she replied that her livelihood was dependent on tourists buying her products, and the tourism was beneficial to her.
  • Tourism benefits a lot of people indirectly, through the revenue pumped into the economy.
  • Nature and beauty is a perishable resource, and would soon be spoilt by tourism.
  • How will Xizhou change and develop? She stated that now Shuanglang is open, a good number of tourists would flock to Shuanglang, bringing their trash and pollution to Shuanglang. But the tourism industry is still going to stay the dominant industry, and industrialization is not going to happen, due to the high density and small population of the towns. Tourism is either going to rejuvenate Xizhou to the heyday of the Tea Horse Road, or ruin Xizhou's environment, like with so many other places. 

I will leave the last two interviews in prose, because bullet points would not suffice to summarize the deep layers of knowledge.

Today (March 26, 2018) I also visited the office for tourism, and spoke to Mr. Zhang Rui, who worked there. Unlike most locals, he wore a suit and tie, and had on loafers. His job was to help tourists, and he knew a surprising amount, much more than that of the layman, about tourism. His first main point was that the number of tourists here was an uncertain number, and he could not make a reasonable estimate. The second thing we touched base on is the reason for tourism: His argument was that the main attraction was the Bai culture, as opposed to scenery. He rightly pointed out that the scenery was ubiquitous to every town along Erhai, and lake view and mountains were not limited to Xizhou. Bai culture, on the other hand, was unique to this region. When I probed about the impacts of tourism, he responded by saying that tourism is not changing the culture. "Tourists only stay for a few days. They will not bother spreading their own culture, because they are here to learn about Xizhou culture." We moved on to how the tourism industry is doing in Xizhou, and he firmly replied: "Not very well. There is no large restaurants here, there are only small diners, and some people do not want to eat there. There's no hotels or guesthouses, and the places that are already here are not of high quality. There is no entertainment facilities, which does not make it interesting for tourists. The infrastructure is not fully developed, the roads are not paved..." Even though that is a pessimistic viewpoint, it is easy to see he is right. In addition, since Xizhou is an old town, private developers are not allowed to build skyscrapers and modern buildings. I questioned about how Xizhou could improve its tourism industry, and he replied: "First, building infrastructure would help Xizhou greatly, making Xizhou have modern facilities make it more attractive to tourists looking for a comfortable stay. And second, advertising would help, because there is no advertisement about Xizhou as a tourism destination. The government is dedicated to keep Xizhou as it is, so we can preserve the Bai culture and by extension the tourism industry." Even though his viewpoints were rather pessimistic, he is right on all counts. So it comes down to balance. Do we want a tourist town, but a mutation of traditional ways, or do we want to preserve Xizhou as it is but lose a major source of revenue?

Today (March 27, 2018) I visited Pessoa Coffee and talked to the owner, Peter. We had a long conversation about tourism, which was mainly centered on what will happen. First, about the growth of tourism, he said that tourism would grow slowly. He said that in an old town, there is not much room for tourism to grow. The houses cannot be torn down, and they are occupied. It is very unlikely that tourism would push out the locals. My question about Xizhou's main attraction was answered this way: "In general, people come to Yunnan because of the scenery and fresh air, as a way to escape the constraints of city life. But Xizhou is unique in that it has unique minority culture, and many people come for the culture." He also referenced Maslow's hierarchy: "But an opposing argument on the growth speed is Maslow's hierarchy. The lower on the hierarchy is the physiological needs. For example, going to Thailand and Hainan to go to the beach, coming to Xizhou to enjoy the beautiful view. But higher on the pyramid is the need for self-realization, which includes learning about culture and coming to Xizhou to experience the culture. By that logic, the tourism industry has only just started in China, and will rapidly grow as more people realize the need to experience culture. This would provide a limit for the number of tourists, because soon they would run out of places to stay. The last argument is that tourism would radically slow, because of the shutdown of Lake Erhai businesses and the construction, which goes back to Ms. Wang's argument about Shuanglang's situation. And regarding the large government funding for Xizhou, he provided an explanation that funding for protection of culture, although part of that money is going to fund infrastructure, which refers back to Mr. Zhang Rui's points. Many others corroborated Peter's observation on the increasing number of tourists, many of which are small business owners. Another point Peter made was that the very fact that they made an investment meant that the assumption was that tourism would grow, but Peter said that many people came here not just to make money but also to cherish the beauty. He said he also wanted the environment to stay healthy for future generations.

And lastly, I talked to Mr. Chen, who helped tie some things together. He said that tourism is not inherently bad, it is just that the way we conduct tourism that has negative impacts. For example, why would anyone bother to fund projects of preservation if no one cared about the culture? Tourism is one of the only ways to supply enough revenue so that we can protect culture. 

The evidence about tourism as a driving force for culture, economics, and the lives of the villagers help me better make a prediction about Xizhou's future. In my final product, I plan to make a projection on Xizhou's future development. Understanding the very dynamic tourism industry well help me project the path of Xizhou's future.

Answers to Previous Questions (From Phase 1):

(Note: The guesses I made are italicized, and my actual answer will be in bold)

The Past

1. How has Nationalist China affected Xizhou's, welfare?
I would say that Nationalist China implanted what little modernity Xizhou has, due to its move of factories, government facilities, and universities temporarily during the war.
I will be deleting Q1 because many of the people here have not experienced Nationalist China's rule while they were old enough to understand.
2. How did things change after Mao and his Communist Party took over?
Mao's regime is marked by many multifaceted policies, but I saw that the particular policy towards minorities seemed to yield more harm than good.
Even though there is some problem with ethnic minorities, the main change is with reference to the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, which shattered the social fabric and completely changed the way of life. There were mixed feelings towards the land reforms. Some people that were poor were grateful that they were allocated land, but still conceded that that was not enough to boost them to the Xiaokangshehui ideal. Many still talked about the widespread suffering and famine that was prevalent in the period. With regards to the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, no one seemed to believe that they were anything better than a disaster. The mere taboo on the topic shows the widespread suffering that was experienced.
3. What has changed after Mao has died and other leaders took over?
Other leaders, most notably Deng Xiaoping, have tried to open up the country and promote economic development, and I would say that would be embodied by better living standards and more variety of goods.
Deng Xiaoping's less radical policies did not seem to affect local life very much, because when I asked people about their past they always recalled the Maoist years. Deng Xiaoping's policies practiced moderation over the extreme, and many openly admitted that they were glad Deng took over. And it was only under Deng that reforms made the economy better, and that was reflected in better living standards.
The Present
4. What are some major challenges facing Xizhou currently?
Poverty is probably the major problem, followed by shortages of goods and lack of infrastructure. Even as I write this I feel this is probably very wrong.
As I predicted, the main problem is not poverty or an underdeveloped economy, but rather the problem with the environment, tourism, and government regulations on the environment. Tourism has changed traditional life into a show, and many people have mixed feelings about the impact of tourism. They concede that making money from tourists is good, but many expressed concern over the impacts on the cultural and environmental aspects. They point out the business shutdowns, the monoculture of crops, and the slowing tourism industry means that business is bad for many people.
5. What are the major sources of income for Xizhou?
Tourism is a much-trumpeted part, and I would also assume traditional goods, such as cloths, sculptures, and the like also play a big part.
Tobacco is the third-largest industry, mineral extraction is the second-largest, and the largest is undoubtedly tourism. Many locals make money by opening businesses that cater to tourists, but mining and tobacco profits often go to large businesses rather than the community.
6. What is the current government doing that is helping/hurting Xizhou?
I think that Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive is probably benefitting Xizhou's and removing officials who are not doing their job properly.
The initiative that Xi Jinping ordered to protect Erhai has caused much controversy. Shutting down businesses have left some people without a source of income and fields to lie fallow. But the fact that people have food, shelter, and a source of income means that Xi's regime and its controversies do not have a large impact on people.
The Future
7. What is the general plan for economic development in Xizhou?
I think that the Belt and Road Initiative will be very beneficial for Yunnan's, and specifically Xizhou's development, as Yunnan is a frontier for China's outwards development.
Xizhou's main industry is tourism, and by most people's estimates tourism will continue to grow. But the initiative to protect the environment is likely to mitigate tourism.
8. What is the ideal Xizhou that people living there hope for?
I would say, based on the xiaokangshehui philosophy, which translates roughly into food on your table and a bed to sleep in, would mean that everyone could live a lower middle-class existence, and no one would be in poverty.
Tying it Together
9. What events in the past shaped Xizhou's challenges in question 4?
Xizhou's rich culture has shaped a positive tourism industry, but Yunnan's geography and physical distance from the capital has lead to some negligence.
10. How do the people view their history's both ups and downs?
I would say that these people are proud of their history and their unique culture.

Now that I have asked many people, I feel that I should delete the entire section on the Future, because many people are uncertain about what the future holds. These people don't have access to government plans, and would not know about the future. I should spend my resources on the past and the present. That said, I will be making projections about the future instead.

Information from Other Sources:

I added the category of Information from Other Sources because there is also some information I do not have a place to put some of my information.

So today (March 14, 2018), I visited the local museum, and that provided a clear look into Xizhou's history before the Second Sino-Japanese War. This is important because the past influences the present, and the present influences the future.

Religion was a big part of Xizhou, and Buddhism was especially prevalent in the Tang and the Song Dynasty. There were temples in all the peaks of the Cang Mountains, and a room in each house was dedicated to Buddhism. Prayer beads were popular, and every first day and mid-month was celebrated by a ritual that meant people abstained from eating meat and drinking wine. Another spiritual habit was the veneration of ancestors. Ancestors were dedicated a tablet, and people would pray and worship to their ancestors, wishing for a blessing from them. In the museum, which was converted from a landlord's house. Xizhou is the crossroads between many trade routes, and different religions and beliefs found their way in Xizhou.

Trade in valuable goods also helped Xizhou greatly. The museum displayed many valuable goods, which leads to the conclusion that these goods got there either through trade or were produced here. Some of the goods displayed include wood carvings, jade, pottery and the like. Most of these are clearly from other places, which shows that Xizhou has been prosperous through the trade routes.

In conclusion, the museum visit yielded a lot of good information on Xizhou's past. My take on the influence on Xizhou's past is that such a past makes the cultural revolution and the new present an especially hard blow on Xizhou. And Xizhou's previous wealth, prosperity, and religion clashed with Mao's ideals of equality, fairness, and secularity. Another effect on present-day Xizhou is that the wealth and prosperity promoted the flourishing of the arts and culture, which helps attract tourist.

I took a slight detour from the well-beaten path of policies and decided to take a look at cultural change. As I visited some stores, I began to notice a ubiquitous trend that was prevalent in most tourist towns: the changing of culture from what it really is to what the tourists want. For example, a walk along Sifangjie speaks for itself: The shops sold modern clothing, shoes, and one store even went as far as selling fried chicken. The tourists must know that these were not local products, but the fact that these stores are surviving means that there were ample customers to support it. Looking at the storefronts, another trend was the deletion of cultural aspects. For example, in Sifangjie, the main attraction was stores selling Baba, a local dessert. But I realized that Baba is by far not the only local food, but it is the most successful, and its success was determined by the tourists who choose which products to buy. A last trend I noticed was the demographics of the generations running the stores. They were either elders or middle-aged, which goes to show that the interest in the traditional aspects of culture is mainly confined to the older generation. Based on many informal conversation, many of the younger generation has left for the bigger cities, like Xiaguan and Kunming. A similar demographic trend is seen in Japan, where the dilemma is that there is not enough people to support the necessary infrastructure in villages. My conclusion is that tourism has brought about a slew of unwanted effects on the culture of Xizhou.


1. Almond, Roncevert Ganan. "China's Air Defense Identification Zone and Lao Airlines Flight QV916." The Diplomat, The Diplomat, 3 Mar. 2017,
2. "China: Yunnan Province: Backwater and Frontier." China: Yunnan Province: Backwater and Frontier - GOV.UK, 1 Aug. 2016, This is an archived article from the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office and the UK Trade and Investment Department.
3. Kuo, Ping-chia, and Robert Lee Suettinger. "Yunnan." Encyclopædia Brittanica, Encyclopædia Brittanica, Inc., 8 Nov. 2016,
4. Ma, Jisen. The Cultural Revolution in the Foreign Ministry of China. Chinese University Press 2004.
5. Mitter, Rana. China's War with Japan: 1939 - 1945 ; the Struggle for Survival. Penguin 2014.
6. Parameswaran, Prashanth. "What's Behind Laos' China Banana Ban." The Diplomat, The Diplomat, 3 Mar. 2017,
7. Poncet, Sandra. "Economic Integration of Yunnan with the Greater Mekong Subregion." Asian Economic Journal, vol. 20, no. 3,pp. 303-317., doi:10.1111/j/ 1467-8381.2006.00237.x.O
8. Schoenhals, Michael. "Cultural Revolution on the Border: Yunnan's 'Political Frontier Defence'." The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Sutdies [Online], 19 (2004: 27-54. Web. 19 Feb. 2018
9. Tsouras, Peter. "War of the Dragons: The Sino-Vietnamese War, 1979." HistoryNet, 11 Apr. 2016,
10. "Vietnam." Asia Society,
11. Zhang, Xiaoming. Deng Xiaoping's Long War: the Military Conflict between China and Vietnam, 1979-1991. University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
12. Mr. Michael Chen. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 27 March 2018
13. Ms. Wang. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 19 March 2018
14. Owner of Xiong Yan restaurant. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 19 March 2018
15. Mr. Wang Huanli. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 20 March 2018
16. Mr. Li. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 21 March 2018
17. Mr. Zhang Rui. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 19 March 2018
18. Yan Family Museum, visited 14 March 2018
19. Mr. Du. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 20 March 2018
20. Mr. H. Personal Interviews conducted by Ethan Zhou, 15, 19 March 2018
21. Mr. Zhao. Personal Interview conducted by Ethan Zhou, 26 March 2018

Finally I will be continuing my journey to Phase 4 in Microcampus. That would entail brainstorming about my final product. 

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask." Over the course of Microcampus, I have experienced the individual freedom that I have been grappling with ever since I have left Shanghai. Who am I? Why am I here? My Microcampus-era posts and thoughts would go to reveal my struggle against who I am, a struggle you will soon face in Microcampus. And now that I am back, I may have but a fragment of my answer.