Event Detail


Factory Girls

Leslie T Chang
Friday, 11 Mar 2011
Pacific Place Conference Centre, 5/F One Pacific Place , Admiralty
Continuing our week of lectures on a contemporary Chinese theme Leslie Chang speaks on her acclaimed book Factory Girls which gives a fascinating and very personal insight into the life of China's migrant workers in the city of Dong Guan in China's manufacturing heartland. Held jointly with the HK Literary Festival

This event is held jointly with the HK Literary Festival. Tickets are available in advance through the HK Literary Festival website www.festival.org.hk/

On the night tickets may be purchased at the door, RGS HK members HK$130 non members HK130

Drinks from 6.30 Lecture starts 7.30

In this lecture, Ms Chang speaks on the subject of her book, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. In her lecture, Ms Chang's gives a poignant account of the mass migration from rural villages to factory cities taking place throughout China, in all the movement of 130 million migrant workers, the largest migration in human history.

Though most Western countries rely on cheap goods made in China, few Westerners have been inside the factories that provide the shoes, luxury handbags, mobile phones and computers they depend upon, and even fewer have penetrated the lives of the young women who leave their homes to work in China's sprawling factory cities. Ms Chang tells the story of these workers who labour countless hours to provide the goods that consumers take for granted elsewhere. The lecture is told primarily through the lives of two young women, Wu Chunming and Lu Qingmin, two migrant workers who were born to poor farming families, who Ms Chang followed over the course of three years as they attempted to improve their lot from the assembly lines of Dongguan, in the Pearl River Delta.

In this lecture, Ms Chang vividly portrays a world where nearly everyone is under thirty, where you can lose your partner and friends with the loss of a mobile phone and where lying about your age, education and work experience is often a requisite for getting ahead. Ms Chang tells of a shoe factory so large that it houses its own hospital and movie theatre, expensive karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution and makeshift English classes where students sit in front of machines watching English words go by. Some of the girls Ms Chang studied joined their factories with borrowed ID cards and never told anyone their real names, even though sleeping twelve to a room. Some girls spoke only to those from their home provinces, but even that had risks, with gossip travelling quickly from factory to village, with every relation soon knowing how much they made or who they were dating.

Ms Chang also looks at the farming villages where the workers go for Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness that have driven these workers to factory life in the first place. Overall, the lecture demonstrates how the mass movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives while transforming Chinese society.

Leslie Chang is from New York and read American History and Literature at Harvard University. She resided in China for a decade as the China correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, specialising in stories that explored how socioeconomic change is transforming institutions and individuals. She has also written for National Geographic and the New York Times. Ms Chang has also worked as a journalist in Miami, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Factory Girls is her first book, which won the Asian American Literary Award, in addition to several other awards.

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