A dissonant lockdown of a post-danwei neighborhood in a third-tier city

Yiling Liu


This article offers a case study of six-day lockdown experiences in a post-danwei (work unit) neighborhood in Mianyang, a third-tier city in southwest China. It argues that implementing lockdown, no matter how brief it was, allows local governments of small cities and towns to avoid out-of-control situations and incorporate the locales’ time and space into the party-state’s grand narrative of “dynamic zero-COVID” and successful mobilization. It also reveals how long-standing controversies over land, finance, and administration between danwei, property management companies, and communities—the state-sponsored grassroots organizations—have complicated and often undermined lockdown management and daily governing practices. During the lockdown, jaded community cadres were frustrated by failures in controlling residents’ movements and securing coordination. They sealed the entrances of whole neighborhoods instead of supervising each residential compound, which turned the process more to averting the “pollution” of social disorder than to preventing the spread of the COVID-Omicron virus.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/727048