“Today, two big mountains lie like a dead weight on the Chinese people. One is imperialism, the other is feudalism. The Chinese Communist Party has long made up its mind to dig them up. We must persevere and work unceasingly, and we, too, will touch God’s heart. Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people. If they stand up and dig together with us, why can’t these two mountains be cleared away?“

Four years before China was liberated, Mao recounted a utopian parable from the 4th century BC, in which a patient collective body is able to move mountains with merely shovels over a long period of time. It references the legend of the “foolish old man” Yu Güng, who wanted larger fields and access to the ocean. Generation after generation, his children and children’s children would continue his life’s work using hoes and baskets until both mountains have been removed: “When I die, my children remain; when the children die, the grandchildren remain… and so each generation will take over from the past one in an endless procession. These mountains may be high, but they can’t get any higher; they grow smaller with every bit that we take away: why shouldn’t we be able to remove them?” The emperor in the sky was impressed by Yu Güng’s work and endurance, and ordered that the mountains be carried off on the backs of two heralds.

After Mao’s death in 1976, the colossal shifts in the landscape suddenly became reality with a big bang. After his successor Deng Xiaoping came to power, the formerly tranquil fishing village of Shenzhen turned into a 15-million metropolis in less than 30 years. The spectacular blasting of Shekou Mountain sparked the establishment of special economic zones and transformed the Pearl River delta into the “factory of the world”. The permanently repeating explosion is exhibited as a video installation at the center of the Shenzhen city museum.

One could say that all of China is currently a special economic zone. Within a single generation, the explosive shock is pervading all of life. The Special Economic und Free Trade Zones, once established as models, are now being exported to the African continent: to Lagos, to the Copperbelt, Lusaka, Addis Abeba, etc. What will be the economic and social effects?

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