50% of world’s mobile phones produced in Guangdong province, and most of them not by Guangdongers
70% of migrant workers are employed in eastern areas; two-thirds work in large- or medium-sized cities. Half move between different provinces (largest flow from Sichuan to Guangdong).
The number of rural Chinese working away from home is now almost 160 million, or 12% of the country's population.
Once a year, nearly the entire migrant population returns home for Chinese New Year. This is the largest mass movement of people on the planet. Journey can be long and conditions are crowded (unimaginably so for many who have not experienced it)
Source: The Economist (February 2012).
Why do people leave their homes?
Few opportunities for education or work available in rural areas.
Poverty (sometimes extreme poverty).
Low-wage factory jobs are still significantly more income than can be earned at home.
Excitement of urban life.
Promise of social mobility.
Hukou (户口 household registration system) grants rights to compulsory education, healthcare, and modest welfare and pension support. Only allowed to receive those rights in the place one is registered.
Student-aged children without the proper hukou or the wealth to pay penalties (to public schools) or tuition (to private schools) are systematically denied an education. This traps them in a cycle of migrant work and poverty.
Even if they can get access to education, must sit the gaokao (高考 college entrance examination) in home province if they hope to attend public university (vast majority of colleges in China are public)
Children receive hukou based on their parents’ hukou. Even if they are born in Beijing, they might have a rural or provincial hukou if that was the legal status of their parents.
Hukou is credited with maintaining social stability and ensuring that major Chinese cities are not ringed with the kind of informal housing settlements found in other developing countries.
Terms like “floating population” (liudong renkou 流动人口)—most recently, “low-end population” (diduan renkou 低端人口)—and have become a cultural trope, represented in major films, for example Fan Bingbing’s Lost in Beijing (Pingguo 苹果)
Sharp socio-cultural divides between “locals” (dangdi ren 当地人) and “outsiders” (waidi ren外地人). Legal discrimination can bleed into discrimination can have economic (jobs), social (housing), and even personal (dating) consequences
Reflection on Chang:
What do you think Chang's goals were? Evaluate her decision not to concentrate on the excesses of the factory system but instead to capture the perspective of young migrant women on their own terms.
Before today, what had you heard either about workers in Dongguan, the Pearl River Delta area, or China more generally? Did Chang expand on or challenge any of your preconceptions?
How does gender complicate our understanding of migrant workers? How might the experience of young women be different from that of young men?
Our recent readings on Deng Xiaoping and Zhu Rongji have taken a macro (“big picture”) focus on China’s development. How does that perspective connect to the micro (individual) focus of Chang?
Is the factory system fair to workers? Why or why not?
Manufactured Landscapes (from beginning for about 2-3 minutes)
Mardi Gras (5:45-15:15; 20:26-24:10; 35:41-36:11)
As you watch, make notes of what you observe. Note, specifically:
What is similar or different in these scenes than what you might have expected after reading Chang ?