PDF Factory Girls From Village to City in a Changing China author Leslie T. Chang
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena jIcuggernaut It seems to me that this book and both Oracle Bones A Journey Between China s Past and Present and Country Driving A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler who is married to Chang present the most honest and insightful picture of contemporary ChinaLong after my brother left the company these tragic incidents became a PR disaster for the company and Apple In response to this problem the management planned to replace troublesome human workers with automatons For me this book felt like a gentle drenching in the culture of Dongguan a city that grew up from small sweatshop factories and burgeoned into a town of massive enterprises sucking in migrant workers from rural villages hundreds of miles away Seventy thousand people now work at the Yue Yuen factory in Dongguan Inside the compound s brick walls workers sleep in factory dorms and eat in factory cafeterias and shop at factory commissaries Yue Yuen runs a kindergarten for employees children and a hospital with a 150 member staff it has a movie theater and a performance troupe volunteer activities and English classes It operates its own power plant and fire departmentWhen Yue Yuen set up its first factory its employees often had to work until midnight and they only got one day off a month Then big American brands like Nike and Adidas were chivvied in the West about the bad working conditions in the factories belonging to their producers In response Yue Yuen changed to an eleven hour workday and gave its workers every Sunday off but other things changed for the worse In 2001 Adidas initiated a programme called Lean Manufacturing to increase efficiency and decrease waste Not only did this put pressure on the workers with tasks precisely designated and little downtime but workers were no longer allowed to share dormitories with friendsinstead they had to share with assembly line colleaguesLife in most of the big factories appears vast impersonal and pressured but in fact the people working there sound far from cowed by their situations Throughout the book we hear about people moving onto new obs at the drop of a hat happily falsifying information about past work experience and skills in order to get better obs Many of the people interviewed seemed fantastically ambitious and enthusiastic Ambitious to earn to learn better social or business skills and to learn English English sometimes taught in extraordinary ways It seems a lonely life though with people moving all too easily in and out of one another s lives Several times the author talks about friendship links being tenuous with contact information only kept on mobile phones Lose your phone lose your friends There is another huge aspect to this life though and that is the rural culture that most of these people come fromThe continuing link to a family farm has stabilized China in an age of mass migration Its cities have not spawned the shantytown slums of so much of the developing world because the migrant who fails in the city can always return home and find someone there A teenager may go out for work leaving his parents on the farm A husband who migrates may have a wife at home tilling the fields or sometimes the other way around A married couple might go out together leaving young children in the care of their aged parents In the city a migrant may look desperate but almost every migrant has a farm to fall back on All the young people interviewed in this book were sending money home to their parents in the countrysideIn one instance the author accompanies one of the girls back to her country home Hours of cramped and uncomfortable travel by train and at the end of it some incredibly basic conditions A family of people sharing beds sharing washing water and unwanted waste Sextasy: Master the Timeless Techniques of Tantra, Tao, and the Kama Sutra to Take Lovemaking to New Heights just dropped on the floor I was amazed that such an ambitious work ethic could have blossomed in such circumstances but the desire to better oneself seemed a burning issue for most of the workers Back at the factories there is much duplicity and corruption pyramid schemes often involving gullible factory workersor pay offs to buyers at factories and suchlike All of this is perhaps exacerbated by the incredibly low wages that the workers getAnother thing that stuck me was the incredible urge for business that everyone seems to have with every opportunity for investment or diversification leapt uponAll in all I felt the book could have been considerably shorter than it was especially the first half I also did not enjoy the author s discussions about her investigations into her own family and family history Thisust felt like a rather lumpy aside On the other hand I did feel I got a very good impression of what life is like for migrant factory workers in China and I am very pleased I read it This book was published in 2009 and the highest compliment I can give is that I wish I d known about it A New York Times Notable Book of the Year and read it thenWhile Chang weaves in her own life story which is fascinating she focuses on several Chinese teen aged girls and young women who ve gone out from their villages where there S No Work And Found Jobs In Cities Like Dongguan no work and found Still Life with Chickens jobs in cities like Dongguan though I usually reject the premise that the anecdotes speak for the whole in this case the depth of reporting on each young woman gives readers a true sense of the motives and national circumstances driving these ambitious young women and so many millions like themHighly highly recommended Put this at the top of your list if you haven t already read it And thanks to KSD for recommending it to me If you have ever wondered about the people who make most of the objects we use on a daily basis like running shoes home appliances kitchen utensils read this book We are given an insightful view of their lives and surroundingsMost of them are young women who come from rural areas They essentially abandon the rural lifestyle to embark on an urban factoryourney Most will change Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea jobs several times They will meet a myriad of friends whoust come and go Their lives are forever alteredThe author does not wage a campaign denigrating the factories young people work in We are presented rather with their daily living conditions They work long hours and they are exploited if they leave the Paradox Bound job they may not receive the back pay owed to them like two months wages One of the first things that hit me when starting to read were theob ads specifically asking for female workers In my country Canada it would be against the labour code to specify a gender when posting an ad not that obs in Canada do not discriminate by gender construction obs are male dominated CEOs are predominantly maleImportantly the author visits a village that some of the workers come from during the New Year vacation period We feel the contrast between what the young girls life in the village would be like with constricting and defined roles around the family the extended family and the entire rural community In the factory they have empowerment they can ask the boss for a change of position a raise or even uit They can spend their earnings as they wish They also sense their empowerment when they return to their small community which aside from the electronic gadgets seems almost medieval there community which aside from the electronic gadgets seems almost medieval there no sense of privacy Neither does Ms Chang paint the urban factory as a paradise There is a constant pressure of production of doing with less and also dishonesty between all levels of the workers and employers We are told for instance that theft is common in the worker bunk houses Also I got a pervading sense of lonelinessbut loneliness is common in the urban environment So many people but so few real friendsI titled this review Debrouillez vous which is a French expression meaning get on with it make due you are on your own This I believe describes the plight of these young girls when they arrive in Dongguan a huge land of factories where they must organize themselves get a STFU, Parents: The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare job changeobs all on their own and become self reliant They are no longer in a communal village This is a revealing book and focuses on people not statistics so we get a personal view of some of the factory workers mostly female but young men as well One statistic does stand out 130 million migrant workers the population of my country Canada Is Somewhat Over 30 Million That Is somewhat over 30 million That is staggering number Perhaps I would have liked on sexual harassment after all most of the workers are young women and their bosses male We are also provided with a chapter on the ubiuitous running shoe This is a very worthwhile read up close engaged and personalSome uotesPage 11 my edition There was nothing to do at home so I went out Page 57 If migration liberated young women from the village it also dropped them in no man s landPage 97 In a universe of perpetual motion the mobile phone was magnetic northPage383 now there was an opportunity to leave your village and change your fate to imagine a different life and make it real. When the Olympics will have shifted the world's focus to China Factory Girls offers a previously untold story about the immense population of unknown women who work countless hours often in hazardous conditions to provide us with the material goods we take for granted A book of global significance it demonstrates how the movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and the fates of families transforming our world much as immigration to America's shores remade our own society a century ag. D foods Others are most taken aback by the unexpected similarities the corn farmer with a cell phone the slum dweller playing Grand Theft Auto 4 the kids who rock out to punk and metal The best travel writers and foreign reporters though simply see This is a splendid splendid book It s not only better than I expected it might even be better than it has any right to be because it so easily could have been awful It so easily could have been another why China will rule the world book or another how the West is ruining the East book or even since the author weaves the story of her own family s immigrations into the larger story of the current mass migration from farm to factory another ersatz Joy Luck Club wannabe about how tough it is to be Chinese Instead it s a perceptive funny sympathetic and often deeply moving story of forgotten people and forgotten histories 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 udgments If Factory Girls is a little short on analysis it is full of insight It is also surprisingly well written The houses of Liutai sat amid rolling hills each one set apart from the next and facing a different direction like a fistful of dice flung across the valley its final paragraph reminded me of nothing so much as the lovely elegiac ending of A Bend in the River also a fine book about being far from home I expect good things from Ms Chang She is a writer who sees I am truly at a loss for how to rate this book It was entirely new information I vacillated between fascination horror and awe And then complete boredom This book could have easily been 150 pages shorter there were times that it was excruciatingly repetitive and at one point I actually thought tom myself Hasn t she already told this story The pacing for this book was entirely wrong The setup and presentation of information was wrong It seemed so helter skelter The stories felt like they were vignettes which I feel would have been a better choice for presentation because they never felt like they flowed together And then then the book ust ended I couldn t believe that it Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays just ended No summation No wrap up It felt like the end ofust another vignette At no point did I feel that the author had a thesis or a guiding point other than to tell these stories and it left me as the reader feeling like I was ust wandering through her book These complaints aside I think it s or maybe an abridged version is an important read China is huge a vastly expanding commercial market and producers of real to the most elaborate fake products ever It s a complete enigma to most Westerners but its arguable a world power with an expanding military power We need to understand where China has come from where she and her citizens want to go in the future It s definitely an eye opening work that will make you think twice about American standards of construction work ethic production and consumption and as we enter the holiday season these are not bad things to think about and be grateful for There are two great reasons to read this book One the direct relevance it has to almost everyone alive today who consumes products of any sort shoes bags cell phone parts computer parts made by the intrepid young working ladies of Dongguan in Southern China that the author describes in this book Second Ms Chang s narrative voice was truly a pleasure to read 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 Knowing next to nothing about China this book opened the door a crack for me to understanding something about the country It was a great introduction providing a context or anchor for further In the early 2000s my brother briefly worked as an executive for a Taiwanese owned manufacturing company in China It was a company of truly epic proportions employing hundreds of thousands in China and abroad and manufacturing for virtually all the big names in consumer electronics sold all over the world If you use an IPad or any OTHER APPLE PRODUCT IT WOULD HAVE Apple product it would have through one of its gargantuan production facilities Its campus in Longhua an industrial suburb of Shenzhen was practically a city unto itself with massive dormitories shops a sports center and a hospital Security was tight discipline militaristic living condition Spartan and working hours extremely long Assembly line pay was miniscule by first world standards but slightly above average for China Worker suicides were not unknown Once in a blue moon the big boss a Taiwanese self made billionaire who scoffed at business school grads would drop by to preach the virtues of hard work and four hours of sleep a day to stadium full of employees On certain auspicious days everyone had to line up to pay their respect to the Tu Di Gong the Chinese earth god of wealth eliciting muffled objections from the Taiwanese Christians and mainlanders brought up as atheists by the Communist state 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 company s operationsAfter a while my brother s functional Mandarin became good enough to talk directly to the workers He was impressed by their capacity for hard work and innate intelligence 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 uickly 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 andor bootleg goods You could walk into a hole in the wall electronics shop and buy say a Sony DVD player for A Fraction Of The Official fraction of the official Or if you liked the design of the Sony but preferred the specs of the Phillips mei wenti No problem They could assemble one for you The reputable shops got their wares from the factories that made these brands so in a sense they were genuine knock offs Everyone was ambitious inured to working conditions that were unthinkable in developed countries and had no respect whatsoever for intellectual property The officials expected kickbacks and practically anything was permissible for the right price Currency manipulation aside these attitudes seem to be the real cause behind China s spectacular economic riseThis 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 Chang a second generation Chinese American followed each of her subjects for years chronicling their working and private lives collecting information about their family history and even gaining access to their diaries Daughters who are less valued under the Confucian system became the primary breadwinners of the family under
THE NEW VALUES OF INDUSTRIALIZATION SONSnew values of industrialization sons often reuired to stay in the village to care for their ancestral farms and many factories prefer young women as they are considered diligent and easier to manage For the first time in history unmarried working class women call the shots and they are ambitious enough to make the most of this opportunity A sweatshop ob is a stepping stone to a white collar ob in the same factory A receptionist with a talent for public speaking can become a successful recruiter for a MLM company Farm girls who never graduated middle school could own export oriented SMEs There is a darker side to all of this and Chang is never sentimental about her girls she doesn t shy away from writing about the sometimes Machiavellian ethos they employed to get ahead or about the bogus and criminal enterprises that proliferated to take advantage of ignorant migrant workers Between stories of the factory girls Chang inserted her own family s history of migration It is decades and continents apart for the Changs were an educated upper middle class family that migrated to America after the Communist victory but it serves as an interesting contrast to the experiences of today s rural migrantsWriting 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 econom. Rays a world where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a cell phone; where lying about your age your education and your work experience is often a reuisite for getting ahead; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class Throughout this affecting portrait of migrant life Chang also interweaves the story of her own family's migrations within China and to the West providing a historical frame of reference for her investigation At a time. I acuired this little book last year from a local library that has piles of English books particularly and neatly stacked up in a room uite cozy and convenient for readers who like to be bilingual like me The protagnists are those migrant female workers the young girls who fleed their imporverished rural villages in uest of a better city lifeThe book primarily covered a period from late 90s and early 00s At a time particularly in 90s if they strive for something new they need to challenge and break the bonds of the old world and traditions where their options are extremely limited Most girls would end up being married at young age and their fates are mostly set There is no other alternative if not choosing to go outsideVillage life was never a pastoral scenery swarmed with arresting tranuility and poignant nostalgia If you rusticate for a while yearning for a flavor of country life think it again and get yourself prepared for a disillusionment thing changed a bit in recent years What impressed me most was author mentioned that when rural teenagers were trying to do something new and desperately in need of life guidance their parents will invariably and inevitably offer the worst advice They were never privileged to attain favorable guidance as their urban peers didDreams are great but the reality won t always offer them romantic answers Almost poorly educated Village girls if not most of them would end up as workers in those obnoxious sweatshopsI swear you were not rare to see those reports on incessant cases of umping off the roof stuff in some or other of those factories a few years ago even you didn t pay much attention to ChinaThings transformed a bit these years but the constructive conflict still taneciously persists in modern China with the fact that rural people migrant workers included never can access to an identity belonging in cities however hard they try however affluent they may beThe book succeeded in exposing the real life of individuals instead of focusing on the big picture of social transformationI love the way the author drawing us a bittersweet picture through the eyes and experiences of insignificant individuals like most Chinese people like meBut the defects are also noticeable The book seems not have arranged its chapers chronologically which made me kindof bewildered and excruciatingI will give the book three and a half stars You might expect a book about the lives of migrant workers in China to be incredibly depressing full of tales of abuse This book isn t like that at all it s informative and doesn t gloss over ugly things but nor does it beat you downFactory Girls focuses on the lives of young women living in Dongguan a huge city in southern China filled with factories and inhabited mainly by migrant workers The author spent several years getting to know workers there and most of the book tells their stories But there s a lot of the author in the book as well not Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived 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 USThis 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 In a way their stories are surprisingly positive they seem very in control of their lives and able to pursue what they want from life which is uite different from the typical industrial revolution story of oppressed workers They changeobs freuently in search of better opportunities they date and they send home enough money to gain a voice in family affairs But in other ways the picture is hardly rosy relationships don t last everyone is obsessed with money bosses often cheat their workers and corruption aboundsFrom a writing standpoint the book is good it s a smooth easy read without feeling dumbed down and the organization is clear However Chang made a couple of tricky choices that may impair some readers enjoyment of the bookFirst there s the decision to include so much of herself in the book and stick scrupulously to events she witnessed and stories she was told rather than trying to draw broader generalizations Sometimes I felt that the book could have used breadth or depth but ultimately Chang seems very careful to limit it to what she can discuss with authority So for instance we get detailed accounts of events and conversations for which the author was present which aren t necessarily earth shaking but which allow the reader to see where her information is coming from Toward the end she even admits that the two women She Focuses On Most May focuses on most may be representative of most migrant workers without suggesting how they might be different for Dongguan at least both seem atypical in that they how they might be different for Dongguan at least both seem atypical in that they moved up from assembly line workSecond there s Chang s decision to write so much about her own family history and her uest to discover it including her visits with long lost relatives She Mexican Hooker justifies this by pointing out that like the workers stories it deals with migration perhaps a betterustification would be that it provides a historical context and a contrast between people like her distant cousin who are stuck in the past and the young ambitious women of Dongguan who are focused on the present and future "While I found the family history reasonably interesting these sections ultimately seem " I found the family history reasonably interesting these sections ultimately seem little too removed from the subject matter of the book and cause it to be longer than necessaryOverall an interesting readable and worthwhile book 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 While being able to relate to Chang certainly is not a prere for enjoying this book I think I ve had a different experience reading this book than non Chinese Americans may have My mom grew up working in sweatshops and factories in Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s so this book has been really interesting as a look into the generation of girls that came after her She had limited schooling and worked with her hands her entire life The mentality of moving up and switching obs and taking computer classes to improve your chances at a better ob and husband seems to be what sets this generation of girls and women apart My mother didn t go to work because she wanted to improve her life she wanted to earn money to improve the lives of her siblings and let them continue schooling She is of the previous generation ust like Chang s father s generation It was really interesting how having wealth changed the migrants roles in their family affairs Chang mentions that for the older generation it was not the same ie getting beaten for changing your major without consulting with parents My mother also earned a lot for her parents not than her father but it only made a difference when she argued for allowing her younger sisters to continue their educationIt is interesting to see how much has changed and how things are continually changing not necessarily in a good or bad way but ust changingSome uotes that I likedp 49 We can be ordinary but we must not be vulgar Wu Chunmingp 58 The divide between countryside and city was the only one that mattered Once you crossed that line you could change your fateYou can only rely on your selfp 234 Seventy percent of Chinese people are bad Lao Gong businessmanSome of the reviews talk about how Chang uses a lot of metaphors or Suspicion at Seven: A Lois Meade Mystery jumps from topic to topic or delves too deeply into her own family history for the purposes of the story I think to try to understand present modern China you really do need to understand at least some of the history and the cultural things that have led up to present day I admit that at some points her narrative is a little weak but the richness of history makes up for that and the intrigue of the modern girls story holds up well against itAs for the metaphors that is part of Chinese culture ie 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 tryust thinking about it for a few minutes That break in space between paragraphs is meant to tell you to take a moment and think before you barrel further into the story This is not like your fictional novel where you ust want to see what happens at the end Part of the process is really trying to understand the people and what they are going through in these storiesOn a somewhat related note this is an interesting project scroll down to Apart Together Some people when they travel are most amazed by the differences they find the donkeys the tuk tuks the rat on a platter the strange drinks and weir. China has than 114 million migrant workers which represents the largest migration in human history But while these workers who leave their rural towns to find obs in China's cities are the driving force behind China's growing economy little is known about their day to day lives or the sociological significance of this massive movement In Factory Girls Leslie T Chang tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women whom she follows over the course of three years Chang vividly port.