Apr 03, 11
Read in January, 2009
This book is the story of a small number of young women working in the newly developed factory town of SE China, such as Shenzhen. They are a few in a population of well over 100 million Chinese, mostly women, who travel thousands of miles from home to work in these factories in towns that have arisen almost from scratch to cities with millions of inhabitants. If you want to understand the evolving economic life of China and how the Chinese government needs to maintain growth, you need to read this book. These are the core experiences today for many in a country with so many people that it can apply a labor based strategy to nearly any product or industry and undercut just about any other economy in the world. Jobs are leaving the US and coming to China because US firms cannot match the low labor costs. The various parts of the book are amazing. To start with, imagine an entire society of young people with no roots and nowhere to go. Literally, everybody's identity is tied up with their cell phones, so that if your phone dies, is lost, or is stolen, you lose all your critical contacts, friends, potential employers, etc. You become invisible and nobody knows where to reach you or whether you still exist. There are other parts of the book dealing with exploitation of women, recreation, and travel back and forth from home. The part of the book that most entertained me was the chapters on education and training -- the entire emphasis of which is to learn just enough to be able to BS your way into the next job and then learn by doing. All professional training is on making a good impression and fooling people regarding your background and skills. This society is based on becoming a fast talking con who can jump from job to job. In training classes that work this way, the ones who stay on until the end are the losers, while the people who learn a lot drop out and get a new job. Most Americans, I suspect, have very little idea of how this new society works and what it means for American competing with China. If you have to pick one book on how the world economy is developing and changing today, this is a good one to choose. It is also well written and very easy to read and remember. The author is a Chinese-American who writes for the Wall Street Journal.