China’s "Factory Girls"

China Factory Girls BookThe always worthwhile China Beat has a great post up by Leslie T. Chang. Ms. Chang is a former WSJ reporter who just wrote a book called Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, due out in October.

The post both previews the book and highlights the differences between writing for the Wall Street Journal and writing a book.

If these two paragraphs from the book are any indication, I expect the book will be riveting:

When you met a girl from another factory, you quickly took her measure. “What year are you?” you asked each other, as if speaking not of human beings but of the makes of cars. “How much a month? Including room and board? How much for overtime?” Then you might ask what province she was from. You never asked her name.

To have a true friend inside the factory was not easy. Girls slept twelve to a room, and in the tight confines of the dorm it was better to keep your secrets. Some girls joined the factory with borrowed ID cards and never told anyone their real names. Some spoke only to those from their home provinces, but that had risks: Gossip traveled quickly from factory to village, and when you went home every auntie and granny would know how much you made and how much you saved and whether you went out with boys.

The post certainly is.

5 responses to “China’s "Factory Girls"”

  1. The excerpt from this book certainly sounds captivating and I will probably end up reading it. I just hope that the readers will keep an open mind and consider the possibility that some of the information may be sensationalized. Two years ago while I was building out a retail space, I spent a lot of time with migrant workers who were all very forthcoming about themselves to me and to each other. Granted they were all male so its a different demographic, but their living conditions were similar if not worse than the factory girls. My personal feeling is that today’s media tries very hard to push negative stories. The more negative the better. When I speak with people back in the US, I have to try very hard to counter the misinformation they have been fed about China by western media. Again, I have no basis to judge the credibility of the information in this book, I just encourage people to keep an open mind.

  2. The sensational feature of the book makes a interesting read as a novel or even a good script for movie. But the same stories have been told by every country in the struggle to industrialization and modernization.
    Most of the maids I have hired in the past couple years had worked in factories and they are pretty open talking about their experience. It sounds just like another job.
    Now, I’d be interested in someone writing a book on KTV girl and their impacts on the economy stability in China. Hey, I write the book myself if I could find a publisher to front the research costs. 😉

  3. Leslie Chang, whatever merits she may possess as a WSJ reporter, belongs squarely to the “the Chinese want to be just like American consumers” school fostered by western media and governments. It will be interesting to see how strictly she hews to this line in work not vetted by the editorial policies of the Wall Street Street Journal. I hope we’re not disappointed.

  4. David Li: KTV girls’ main economic impact on China is the diverting of men’s income from the men and their families to the girls. Their social impact is huge, since KTV offers every type of girl an opportunity: they earn money to pay college tuition; to pay for their families’ bills; to look for husbands, and sometimes to support unemployed husbands. They are not simply young, single, uneducated women. But I suppose you know all this already, hence are volunteering to write the tome. I would have written it already, but divorce is costlier than publication expenses.

  5. I am not sure what school of journalism Ms. Chang belongs to, but she has a feature article in the May issue of National Geographic magazine. It’s very good. Actually, the entire issue is amamzing, the pictures, stories, totally worth checking out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *