01 April 2010

Condolences China: Sagacious Sam 1 - People's Republic 0; another book reviewed and S.S. remains unimpressed

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
Leslie T. Chang
As a study rooted in both the lessons of history and the narration of cultural subjectivity in China, Leslie Chang’s text seems to be purposed as an open-ended performative narrative meant to bring about conclusions which will be objectively different depending on the cumulative knowledge that the reader personally has about the subject at hand: the lives of Factory Girls in China.  From my bent-at-the-waist perspective, the fact that Chang was only able to gather enough information on only two of the over 130 million migrant Factory Girls in China, is disappointing. 
Chang points out the mindboggling magnitude of her attempt at cultural narrative quickly, as if to get it off her to-do list without noticeably missing a drumbeat; “In their frilly tops and jeans and ponytails, they looked just like the millions of other young women who had come to Dongguan from somewhere else,” and after drawing in a long, purposed breath she continues; “The sight of so many girls I would never know was paralyzing—it seemed inconceivable that any single story mattered at all.”[1]  Ahem, but as a credible(?), tenured(?), journalist, didn’t you essentially, and some [I] would venture to say, purposefully smash the Ethos of your remaining 390 pages; leaving an admittedly na├»ve, but detail-oriented undergrad, grasping for even a tiny metaphysical twig while being hurdled—without warning—over the Cliffs of Insanity!  I read your book, but I was drawn back to your confession page[2] time and again—due to my disbelief—which made the only remaining handholds of Pathos and Logos far too difficult to hold onto.  I was literally mentally and scholastically disenchanted by your apparent resignation from the industry.  “I DON’T BELIEVE IT.”[3]
If you don’t mind my saying Narrator Chang, you seem awfully too willing to admit defeat—the arch-nemesis of your character cast consisting of two strong-willed females dueling against traditional Chinese dualists, men and management—before even firing a shot from the big guns of your three year cultural study. 
If I’m to understand that you weren’t intentioned on at least attempting to coerce the reader into pits of conclusion, what was you business plan when you decided to become a pen-wielding globe-trotter?  Making people feel sympathy for Chinese women, empathy even?  No matter what country you look at Chang, women have had a tough go of it until pretty recently... "E" for effort on that one.  
Pop-quiz hot shot: Ever since humans realized that the seasonal ebbs and flows of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers deposited mineral rich silt, which was paramount for sustained agriculture—the most recent infanticide of modern Chinese society, another motionless piece of evidence against China’s “grand plan;” why do you think there are—and will continue to be—so many young, bright-eyed women packing their bags and hoping on a one way trip into the warming glow of floodlights perched high atop factories in cities?    

Is China – the country currently viewed as the soon-to-be torch-bearer of geopolitical influence – being propelled to the forefront of industrial production due to the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to motivate the hearts and minds of its national population, which consists of more than 1 billion citizens, with popular slogans and a communal heartbeat powered by the government’s single-minded desire to deservedly take the pole-position of global influence from the vice-grip currently dominated by America and the U.N.?  

Or is there, rather, a more devious purpose underlying China’s six-decade long quest for power; something along the lines of the subjugation of the world’s lower- and middle-class citizens, very much akin to the “lives” of the “packs of girls and boys swallowed up” behind the walls and “the long avenue of factories” in “Dongguan;”[4] the birthplace of the cultural understanding that Chinese “modern history began with the handbag factory,”[5] due partly to the fact that “Chinese history museums” do not “make a single mention of Mao Zedong.”[6]

-- The factory city of "Dongguan," I wonder if that translates roughly as "The Glorious People's Attempt to Forge Walt Disney's Glorious Donkey Island," hmmmmmm 

Chang, as a dedicated journalist—she did stick with it, have to give credit where credit is due—does her part by chasing the story for a total of three years and compiling an overwhelming narrative.  For that, I will join the masses of journalistic almsgivers alluded to in the book’s four opening pages subtitled “Praise for Factory Girls” and praise her also; more power to you Mrs.? Chang[7]  Not only is Chang’s scholarship applicable to debate in the highest of academia’s spheres, she also endeavored to publish a study which allows an under-educated layman the ability to draw personal conclusions about the oftentimes overlooked subjects of the ethical and humanitarian treatment of migrant workers in the most populous country on Earth, The People’s Republic of China. 
In summation, I am impressed by the tenacity that Leslie Change has, but I feel that she was often-time reinforcing the stereotypes of China’s migrant work force as a Blue Jean Army.  If history serves me correctly, Communism has been attempted all over the globe, and each time it has made great-leaps forward, only to quickly cast the seemingly weighted die, which propels it further still, entrenching the elite in positions of infallibility, with a tendency to purge, causing the voice of the people, to once again overthrow it and set up some form or another of Western style government.  It’s happened like clockwork in nearly all of the recently established Communist countries… so shine on China, forge Tao… but I feel that you’re growth is malignant rather than benign and you will consume yourself before your appetite for world domination is whetted.  Do not pass go Mrs.(?) Chang, do not collect 200 Yuan.  Madison Fifth Ave. will continue to be just out of reach, no matter what heights China’s human pyramid reaches.  
Too Infinity [roughly 2020] and Beyond [mass migration out of your backwater society]!  Silly Mao, ruling countries is for people, not pseudo-Stalins...  
"Build Roads, Bridges, and Power Plants to Generate Funds for More Roads, Bridges, and Power Plants!"  Mediocrity leads to stagnation...

[1] Leslie T. Chang, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009) 24.
[2] Chang, 24.
[3] Chang, 50.
[4] Chang, 21.
[5] Chang, 31.
[6] Chang, 43.
[7] More probably Miss Chang, due to the high praise Chang scholastically strained to squeeze out of plethora of publication firms, the majority of whom are coincidentally ideologically entrenched with The New York Times, for two Chinese women on a quest to challenge cultural norms and ideals.  Could there not have been higher praise for the entire constituent body of Factory Girls in China.  Short-sighted when it comes to the “big picture” in my humble, undergraduate opinion.

Talons - once again - Out

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