Tom Cliff is an Australian Research Council DECRA Research Fellow at the Australian National University and author of Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang, published by the University of Chicago Press and winner of the 2018 AAS E. Gene Smith Book Prize (Inner Asia).
To begin with, please tell us what your book is about.
Oil and Water is about the experience of being Han in Xinjiang. It is about the experience of being a second-generation colonial settler in the 20th and 21st centuries—in a world that is supposedly post-colonial. It is about being born, living your whole life, and feeling at home in a place that is not “home” to your forebears or “home” to the political and cultural institutions that shape your life. The book, therefore, is also about those political and cultural institutions, and the way that they are shaped by the people who make them up and their location on the quintessential frontier of modern China.
What inspired you to research this topic?
I formed thi ...
Official state media reports in China frequently speak of how the Communist Party-led government has “lifted 700 million people out of poverty” since implementing economic reforms in the late 1970s. Yet there are still millions of people in the country who struggle to maintain long-term employment and constantly teeter on the edge of a financial cliff.
Dibao, or the Minimum Livelihood Guarantee, is a government program intended to help its recipients step back from the edge of that cliff. By distributing cash payments to those who qualify, Dibao is meant to provide China’s poorest citizens with the funds to cover their basic expenses during periods of un- or under-employment. First implemented in Shanghai in 1993, Dibao was expanded to all urban areas in 1999 but has only been available to rural residents since 2007; there are now approximately 60 million people receiving welfare payments through the program.
AAS Member Qin Gao, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work ...