Synopses & Reviews
An eye-opening and previously untold story, Factory Girls
is the first look into the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China.
China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in Chinas Pearl River Delta.
As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life—a world where nearly everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place. Throughout this riveting portrait, Chang also interweaves the story of her own familys migrations, within China and to the West, providing historical and personal frames of reference for her investigation.
A book of global significance that provides new insight into China, Factory Girls demonstrates how the mass movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and transforming Chinese society, much as immigration to Americas shores remade our own country a century ago.
China has more than 114 million migrant workers, which represents the largest migration in human history. But while these workers, who leave their rural towns to find jobs 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 portrays 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 requisite 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 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 ago.
A gripping account of China’s failed attempt at social engineering and its pervasive effects on the Chinese people
An intimate investigation of the world’s largest experiment in social engineering, revealing how China became what it is today, where it’s inevitably headed, and the implications for the rest of the world
China adopted its one-child policy in 1979, exercising unprecedented control over the reproductive habits of more than one billion people. China now seems poised to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy, but this law may be its undoing. The Soviet Union collapsed because of its wrongheaded attempt to engineer the market. What will come of China’s attempt to engineer its population? Mei Fong reveals the true human impact of government-mandated family planning, traveling across China to meet the people who live with its consequences. Their stories reveal a dystopian reality: unauthorized second children ignored by the state, only children supporting aging parents and grandparents on their own, villages teeming with ineligible bachelors. This demographic imbalance, Fong argues, will lead to further economic and societal turmoil in the years to come. Fong has spent over a decade documenting the repercussions of the one-child policy on every sector of Chinese society. She offers a nuanced and candid account of government planning gone awry.
About the Author
MEI FONG is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist with over a decade of reporting in Asia, most recently as China correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. She is a winner of Amnesty’s Human Rights Press Award, a 2013 recipient of a Ford Foundation grant for investigative journalism, and a 2015 New America Fellow. Her writing has also appeared in the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, Forbes, and Far Eastern Economic Review. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, South China Post, and Singapore Straits Times.