In the early 2000s, my brother briefly worked as an executive for a Taiwanese-owned manufacturing company in China. The Taiwanese executives and managers spoke Taiwanese Hokkien among themselves, a language not understood by most of the mainlanders, and looked down on their workers, migrants from the rural interior who formed the backbone of the companys operations. Considering that these people were probably the first generation ever to leave the farm and were spottily educated in rural schools, it was a revelation to see how quickly they learned how the factory worked and to make hi-tech products according to complex instructions. After working hours, he wandered around the town, an industrial Wild West full of shops selling cheap and/or bootleg goods. This book is a fascinating, occasionally voyeuristic, study of the lives of the assembly-line workers who fueled this rise, specifically a couple of factory girls in Dongguan, another industrial town not far from Shenzhen. Daughters, who are less valued under the Confucian system, became the primary breadwinners of the family under the new values of industrialization (sons are often required to stay in the village to care for their ancestral farms and many factories prefer young women as they are considered more diligent and easier to manage). Writing about the rising China is practically a cottage industry of its own, but this book is remarkable for putting a human face on the tide of workers who powers the economic juggernaut.
'Non è un problema ma un'opportunità', una delle frasi più irritanti che mi sia mai capitato di sentire, in questo caso almeno è vera: le figlie femmine, nella Cina rurale, sono considerate 'acqua sporca dopo aver sciacquato i piatti' totalmente inutili alla famiglia, perché si sposeranno e andranno a stare da un'altra parte, senza contribuire al mantenimento degli anziani genitori. Solo chi ha visto un po'di Cina può immaginare lo squallore disumano di questi non-luoghi, la durezza delle condizioni di lavoro, la solitudine spaventosa delle esistenze che qui si consumano. Non si sa se provare più pena o più ammirazione per queste ragazzine sradicate, che imparano a sedici anni sulla loro pelle quello che molte di noi non introiettano nemmeno a cinquanta 'Posso contare solo su me stessa'. Nel paese del collettivismo, in cui l'iniziativa individuale è stata sistematicamente eradicata per secoli, mentre i maschi restano indietro, coccolati/stritolati dalle aspettative e dalle tradizioni familiari pesanti almeno quanto quelle nostrane, tutta una generazione di ragazzette senza tetto né legge corre talmente avanti da ritrovarsi poi sola al traguardo.
She is of the previous generation, just like Chang's father's generation. My mother also earned a lot for her parents, not more than her father, but it only made a difference when she argued for allowing her younger sisters to continue their education.It is interesting to see how much has changed and how things are continually changing, not necessarily in a good or bad way, but just changing. 234 "Seventy percent of Chinese people are bad." - Lao Gong, businessman Some of the reviews talk about how Chang uses a lot of metaphors, or jumps from topic to topic, or delves too deeply into her own family history for the purposes of the story. As for the metaphors, that is part of Chinese culture (i.e. the not talking openly about yourself or feelings or opinions), so if you really don't get the picture or effect she is going for, then you could try just thinking about it for a few minutes.
The material itself is fascinating and up-to-the minute-timely; the book details how a huge migration is taking place in China, transforming family life, economic life, and the individual fates of millions of young women and men who leave the countryside to work in cities full of factories, cities which are changing and growing at an insane speed. Ms. Chang was the perfect narrator; she wrote in a way that provided an immediately familiar and recognizable narrative voice to an American reader but with her Chinese language skills, family background, open mind, and warm heart she was also able to become close enough with the Chinese women to give us an intimate view of their lives, ambitions, and view of the world.
Al suo posto, a partire dalle riforme economiche varate da Xiaoping negli anni '70, è sorta - in poche manciate di decenni - la "fabbrica del mondo", una nazione capitalista sempre più industrializzata e globalizzata, che si colloca alla sorgente di ogni commercio manifatturiero, ipercompetitiva e apparentemente onnivora. Ma ora c'era anche l'opportunità di lasciare il villaggio e cambiare il proprio destino, di immaginare una vita diversa e renderla reale. Ma il loro scopo non era più quello di cambiare il destino della Cina.
But there's a lot of the author in the book as well; not just recounting her interactions with the migrant women (the migrant population in Dongguan is estimated at 70% female), but also tracing the history of her family in China, before they left for Taiwan and eventually the U.S. This book is certainly worth reading if you are curious about life in modern China; it's full of stories from the lives of the people Chang meets, as well as some broader factual information to give them context. Chang gets to know a couple of the women very well, meeting their friends and traveling home with them to visit their families. Second, there's Chang's decision to write so much about her own family history and her quest to discover it, including her visits with long-lost relatives. If you like this and are interested in a fictional take on the lives on young female migrant workers in China, I recommend Miss Chopsticks.
And then, then the book just ended. China is huge, a vastly expanding commercial market, and producers of real to the most elaborate fake products ever. Its a complete enigma to most Westerners, but its arguable a world power with an expanding military power.
Some people, when they travel, are most amazed by the differences they find ... Chang, in profiling the women who come from rural China to the bustling factories of the southern provinces, provides a compelling narrative of the way that the people of China are trapped between the excesses of the Cultural Revolution and those of unfettered hyper-capitalism, and she does so in a way that is critical and clear-eyed, yet refrains from easy potshots and sweeping judgments.
I chose the book because I was very interested in learning about life in China today.
L'autrice segue le vite di due ragazze emigrate dalle zone rurali della Cina verso una delle metropoli industriali del sud e contemporaneamente racconta la Cina contemporanea -che ti distrai un secondo ed è già cambiata.
Chang lived in China for a decade as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, specializing in stories that explored how socioeconomic change is transforming institutions and individuals.