Bodies and Body Politics of China’s Northeastern Rust Belt

Yina Cao,
Xudong Guo

Published Date: Feb 28, 2022


The old industrial zone in northeastern China—China’s rust belt region—is a fertile site to explore the body’s political significance in China’s industrial rises and falls. In recent years, writers in the rust belt region have been increasingly concerned about the social impact of the region’s economic decline, with Zhang Meng’s film The Piano in a Factory (2010) and Shuang Xuetao’s novella Moses on the Plain (2016) being the most representative. Taking these two artistic works as examples, this article discusses the implications of “organ” metaphors describing the “rust belt.” This article uses the perspective of body politics and proposes that although the social body takes economic growth as a nutrient, the rust belt is generally regarded in China as a dysfunctional organ. Such a view does not promote a sense of self-worth among the northeastern men but rather traps them within metaphors of death, decay, and decline. In addition, while examining the plight of men, the works of Zhang Meng and Shuang Xuetao also prove important for understanding the role of women in this post- industrial region.


Northeastern China’s Old Industrial Base, Chinese literature and art research, rust belt landscape, body politics

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