Despite spending years working in mainland cities, migrant workers still feel like outsiders.
“Many workers who flock to mainland cities feel alienated and have low self-esteem, says survey
“Despite spending years working in mainland cities, migrant workers still feel like outsiders and say their only sense of happiness comes from their families, a Renmin University survey has found.
“They also see themselves as the bottom of society and feel alienated because they have no influence on their lives or society in general, the survey found, with young migrant workers even gloomier about their prospects.”
In 2011, the popularity of Bo Xilai’s sing-red campaign, the restoration of Maoism brought about by him and his despotism seemed to make what I fear soon become a reality. Fortunately, in March 2012, Bo fell into disgrace.
I personally experienced the disasters of the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution caused by Maoism. I was at a mature enough age and regarded myself as having seen much of the Chinese society and people when the Cultural Revolution began. Still I was amazed to see the power of Maoism in turning educated youngsters and even students at prestigious colleges, into mad mobs overnight.
I was puzzled that a nation with 4,000 years of civilisation was turned overnight into a self-destructive nation that negated all its culture and past.
I studied Chinese history and philosophy and conducted deep soul searching. I found there were quite some such self-destructive periods in Chinese history when mobs led by despots brought chaos to the Chinese nation.
Usually some wise leaders, assisted by talented scholars, emerged in these periods, rescued the Chinese nation from chaos and soon brought prosperity to China. What the despots rallied mobs around them was egalitarianism that has been deeply rooted in Chinese culture for thousands of years.
I sum up such major facts in Chinese history into two formulae:
despot + mobs = chaos
wise leader + talented scholars = superpower
The Cultural Revolution was a quite extreme case of the first formula where the despot was a charismatic, well educated and talented one, and had developed China’s popular egalitarianism into a popular theory – Maoism. I point out in my book that due to the yawning rich-poor gap, Maoism remains influential in China and may be the cause of another Cultural Revolution. I said in my book:
“Most rural people, the majority of the Chinese population, have received no or little education. About 200 million of them are now migrant workers in Chinese cities.They are paid much lower wages than native urban workers and they are not provided with the subsidised housing and other welfare that native urban people enjoy, but cannot afford urban housing without subsidy.
“Their children cannot compete with native urban people for education opportunities because they are mostly left behind in rural areas without their parents to take care of them. Rural education facilities are inferior to urban ones. A few of the children live in cities with their parents. There are few schools for them in the cities and those schools are not as well equipped or staffed as the schools for native urban people.
“Migrant workers are looked down by native urban people. In fact, they are now second-class citizens in Chinese cities. However, in the past, the inequality was mostly economic. The social status of peasants in China was always high. Now in addition to the widening rich-poor gap, there is the inequality in social status, which hurts migrant workers’ dignity most.”
The uneducated underdogs may be turned into mobs overnight if a charismatic, well-educated and talented despot like Mao emerges. Bo is such a despot and almost succeeded in rallying Maoists around him to cause trouble.
CCP leaders know well the danger and are carrying out a 5-year plan to build 37 million units of subsidised housing for urban and migrant workers. Some cities including Shanghai are making efforts to allow migrant workers’ children to not only receive education there, but also take part in the matriculation examinations so as to allow them to enjoy the greater opportunities to enter prestigious universities and colleges.
However, according to the survey reported by SCMP, “Compared with a similar survey last year, migrant workers’ living standards had improved but their sense of happiness from social involvement and social standing had dipped.” The danger of despot + mobs = chaos remains, though the charismatic, well educated and talented despot Bo Xilai has fallen into disgrace.The SCMP report: “Migrant workers feel like outsiders in mainland cities, says survey”
- You: Sense of isolation remains for migrant workers (english.people.com.cn)
- You: Different dreams of ‘post-1990s’ migrant workers (english.people.com.cn)
- China’s migration from ‘hukou hell’ (edition.cnn.com)
- China: Purge of unqualified members is a hard battle for the Party’s survival (chinadailymail.com)