Dragons in Diamond Village: Tales of Resistance from Urbanizing China

David Bandurski. Melville House, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61219-571-1
Hong Kong–based journalist Bandurski explores corruption in Chinese society through a very specific lens: the phenomenon of once-rural villages being overtaken by rapidly expanding cities. The main narrative involves Xian Village, which was absorbed by Guangzhou, China’s third largest city. Set mainly between 2009 and 2014, this story involves village residents who refuse to sign demolition agreements to tear down their centuries-old homes, pitting them against the wishes of powerful locals. Bandurski weaves in other strands of resistance: a small businesswoman who finds herself entangled in an unsanctioned shopping center development and a rural villager who responds to losing his property rights in another village with protest. Bandurski also provides an impressive investigation into the convoluted trail of corruption at the heart of Xian Village’s troubles. The organizational principle undergirding the narrative’s interlocking pieces does not make itself readily apparent, and the jumps from scandal to scandal are discombobulating. Bandurski employs an engaging and clear voice that mixes the styles of reportage and memoir. At times, though, the writing includes too much reportorial detail when the reader hungers for deeper characterizations or more cultural context. The protagonists all read as noble ciphers standing up to indistinctly corrupt power. Nonetheless, the book provides an important and unique spotlight on the lives of those being run over roughshod by China’s development. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2016
Release date: 10/25/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-670-08096-0
Ebook - 978-1-61219-572-8
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