China’s “urban management officers”, or chengguan (城管), a non-police force charged with keeping urban areas across the country orderly and clean (i.e, free of peddlers, migrant workers, illegal building structures), have a reputation for unruliness and viciousness. In a recent case of violent “management” by urban management officers that shook the whole country, officers viciously attacked the owner of a bicycle store in Yan’an, Shaanxi province, even jumping on his head. Following the incident, the official Global Times newspaper urged people to point the finger at individual violators, not at the entire urban management system. In this cartoon, posted by artist Lao Xiao (老肖) to Sina Weibo, viewers are presented with a mock quiz in which a blank is followed by the character for “management”, or guan (管) — visually rendered with striking fists, kicking feet and flying fruit (a clear reference to chengguan violence against street peddlers in China) — and viewers are asked to fill in the first character. Lao Xiao’s quiz underscores the absurdity of the idea that chengguan maintain order in the city at all. In many cases, indeed, they are a source of disorder..

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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