I’m always interested to see what Universities are assigning to incoming Freshmen or in different seminars. This one such book. It was assigned at Brown University in their First Readings. Migrant labor is a huge thing in China–these are the rural young adults who move to cities to work in factories. The author, a Chinese-American reporter for the Wall Street Journal, does an excellent job of showing their lives without any melodrama about horrendous working conditions or other expose style writing. She simply shares their lives–all that they just accept to get ahead. On the factory floor, in continuing education and, later, in romance and in the Chinese Amway, these young women are all trying to have better life than that lived by their farmer-parents.
What amazed me was how similar it is to what goes on in our own rural communities here in the States (like where I live). They have no way to evaluate educational offerings for quality (like students her getting sucked into for profit schools), they take risks, live in a hook-up culture but worry about the morality they were taught as children, and often lose everything only to have to start again. These are not the pampered “little emperors” of China’s biggest cities or the daughters tossed away to orphanages. These girls were born in rural areas where the one child policy was either not present or not enforced. Some come from families with as many as seven children and have grown up in a very traditional village culture. What IS shocking here is that there is absolutely no ethical framework in any area of business in China. None. People use fake ids, blatantly lie, etc., as a matter of course–and see nothing wrong with it. That is very scary. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang. Note: This post was originally published in April 2015.