Great report by Reuters about the situation of migrant workers in China and the generational divide among that group. (And a special shout out to old fellow traveler Jeffrey Ballinger for pointing this story out.)
Jeff asked if the younger migrant workers Tweeted, especially after workers in southern China rioted over the manhandling of a 20-year-old pregnant migrant hawking wares on the street. (Think Tunisia.)
The issue of migrant labor, the treatment of that labor affects the future of China.
The migrants are moving to places where the jobs are — something unheard of in the China of the far and near past. They are demanding fair treatment and services from the central and local governments.
“They look down on the outsiders, so we let them know we won’t be bullied anymore,” said a lanky 19-year-old migrant worker in Dadun, one of the many factory towns and villages that as made the Pearl River Delta, “the workshop of the world” in Guangdong province next to Hong Kong.
“People have been waiting a long time for a chance to get them back, they (security guards) discriminate against us,” he said as he watched his friends hammer away on a street fighter video game called Killer in a games parlor.
Interviews with dozens of migrants in Dadun and other nearby factory neighborhoods revealed raw resentment of harassment and shakedowns from public security teams and local security guards.
The central authorities in Beijing along with their minions in local governments are nervous about the migrant workers. The workers are no longer the docile masses that were easily manipulated 50 years ago. They are making demands. (Such “outrageous” demands as education for their children.) The concern of the authorities is that these migrants might soon start taking their complaints to the Twitter-verse and other online fora.
As we have seen in Northern Africa, a routine (for corrupt dictatorships) action of harassing a street vendor can erupt into a national upheaval.
Rumors spread fast. And, in a country without independent media, tend to be believed more than the truth. Social media and mobile phone text messaging help move the rumors faster and farther than ever before.
This is the case in China. The situation for migrant workers is bad. As is the situation of farmers.
It must be the greatest fear in Beijing that exaggerated complaints of migrant workers and the farmers spread and then gain traction among the urban population.
The complaints are bad enough but without independent media to provide fact checking to rumors, it is the rumors that will be believed and acted on.