Machine Sky: Social and Terrestrial Engineering in a Chinese Weather System

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16 Scopus citations


This article explores Chinese environmental politics as a complex strategy for engineering weather and climate at national and then planetary scales. It argues that in times of meteorological insecurity, we can explore diverse sites in China's state environmental political apparatus as attempts at coordinating diverse physical, natural, and social processes into components of manipulable weather systems. Through considering two programs of state environmental intervention, the article explores “infrastructure” as a political practice and opportunity. First, in considering aerial seeding and ecological migration programs in the context of anti-dust storm programs spearheaded by state forestry agencies, I show how environmental engineering involves the continual retooling of wind flows, local ecologies, and ex-herder precarity into a variegated strategy of atmospheric control for downwind places in the path of dust storms. Then, I explore how the recent ascendance of the Chinese state in international climate accords builds on a decade-long theorization of “socialist ecological civilization” by Party theorists. In aligning the longevity of state socialism with the sustaining of planetary climate systems, I argue that Chinese international politics increasingly rely on a vision of China as infrastructural to the political and climatic apparatus of the planet as such. [climate change, environment, infrastructure, dust storms, China].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-20
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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