Summary: Leslie Chang is an American journalist who spent several years conducting interviews in China. The main focus of this book is on the rise of factories and the migrant workers who fill them. She interviews several workers and a few of them maintain contact over the years even as they change cities and industries. Chang goes into detail regarding their working conditions and their social lives. She tours the various places of their lives, including taking a trip back to the farm from which one of the migrants was born. She highlights the ups and downs, including how most migrants seem to see factory work as an opportunity to rise economically. They are constantly improving skills and jumping from job to job, hoping to make it big. Chang also talks about the control that the factories have over workers, including deciding where they sleep, how many hours they work and even if they are allowed to collect their last paycheck.
Chang also takes the time to explore her own past and contrast it with the workers. Chang's great-grandfather was regionally powerful before the communist revolution. He was a government official and lived in a large compound, and controlling a large amount of land. Her grandfather was an important mining engineer during the Japanese invasion and eventually assassinated during the cultural revolution. Her family moved to the United States and Chang sees similarities in her personal migrant story and the girls who work the factories.
What I Liked: This is a good long perspective on the changes in China without feeling like a defense of any particular argument. She reports what she finds and lets the reader draw their own conclusions. This is the most comprehensive book I have read on China and I found it enlightening.
Also Read by this Author: None.
Reviewed by: Nick