Synopses & Reviews
Each year, 200 million workers from China’s vast rural interior travel between cities and provinces in search of employment: the largest human migration in history. This indispensable army of labour accounts for half of China’s GDP, but is an unorganized workforce—‘scattered sand’, in Chinese parlance—and the most marginalized and impoverished group of workers in the country.
For two years, the award-winning journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai travelled across China, visiting labourers on Olympic construction sites, in the coal mines and brick kilns of the Yellow River region, and at the factories of the Pearl River Delta. She witnessed the outcome of the 2009 riots in the Muslim province of Xinjiang; saw towns in rubble more than a year after the colossal earthquake in Sichuan; and was reunited with long-lost relatives, estranged since her mother’s family fled for Taiwan during the Civil War. Scattered Sand is the result of her travels: a finely wrought portrait of those left behind by China’s dramatic social and economic advances.
"The Chinese 'miracle' gets a reality check in this engrossing exposÃ© of the country's 200 million migrant laborers set adrift since the country's opening to international markets in the 1980s a rural population of historically unprecedented size in constant search for work within China and abroad. U.K.-based, Taiwanese-born journalist Pai (Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain's Hidden Army of Labour) travels widely to capture the settings, circumstances, and stories of this 'new mobile proletariat,' balancing relevant statistics and modern history with voices of the mostly young, desperately insecure workers on the losing end of a widening income gap and increasing rural unemployment. Eliciting the perspectives of individual migrants working in dangerous occupations as miners, security guards, prostitutes, black market merchants, brick makers, and cellphone assembly-line workers gives the narrative a palpable human dimension. Pai carefully contextualizes their plight many face further exploitation and discrimination as one of China's 55 ethnic minorities with reference to a strong nationalist strain in Chinese socialism, operative from 1949 on, that punishes dissent while demanding total sacrifice for the sake of the motherland. A moving contribution to the growing literature on the new China, the book will prove relevant for anyone interested in ongoing debates around migrant labor in a globalized economy." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Hsiao-Hung Pai’s intrepid journalism is one of the most revealing guides to contemporary China." Pankaj Mishra, author of < i=""> From the Ruins of Empire <>
"Scattered Sand captures the sadness, resilience and anger of China’s millions of internal and international migrants. This illuminating book effortlessly interweaves individual voices, rarely heard by English-speaking audiences, with the history, politics and economics that shape migrants’ stories and their choices." Bridget Anderson, author of < i=""> Doing the Dirty Work: The Global Politics of Domestic Labor <>
"Hsiao-Hung Pai brings her knowledge of China’s history to this detailed examination of the plight of the millions of peasants searching for work in China’s booming cities and, failing that, in other countries … A grim but keen view of the dark underside of China’s prosperity." Kirkus Reviews
First-hand report on the largest migration inhuman history.
Each year, 200 million workers from China's vast rural interior travel between cities and regions in search of employment: the largest human migration in history. This indispensable army of labor contributes half of China's GDP, but is an unorganized workforce--"scattered sand"--and the most marginalized and impoverished group of workers in the country.
For two years, the award-winning journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai traveled across China to uncover the exploitation of workers at locations as diverse as Olympic construction sites and brick kilns in the Yellow River region, the factories of the Pearl River Delta and the suicide-ridden Foxconn complex. She witnessed AIDS-afflicted families and towns; recorded acts of labor militancy; and was reunited with long-lost relatives, estranged since her mother's family fled for Taiwan during the Civil War. What she finds is a peasantry expected to sacrifice itself for the sake of national glory--just as it was under Mao.
About the Author
Hsiao-Hung Pai is a freelance journalist, whose report on the Morecambe Bay tragedy for the Guardian was made into the film Ghosts. Her book on undocumented Chinese immigrants in Britain, Chinese Whispers, was shortlisted for the Orwell Book Prize in 2009. She lives in London.