Made in China tells one of the millions of stories of migrants from rural China who comprise the backbone of the Chinese economic miracle. It provides a human face behind the ubiquitous label "Made in China." This massive dislocation of people may well represent the largest, most rapid migration in human history. The film demonstrates how one generation of Chinese is experiencing the culture shock of an Industrial Revolution which took centuries in the West. It is inevitably both an elegy for a lost way of life and a grassroots view of what could become the most powerful economic power on earth.
Made in China follows the lives of a typical migrant couple, Heqing and Heping Fan, including their first trip home after two years in the city. They both work in the Cixi Industrial Zone, a manufacturing center with over 1,000,000 workers, mostly former peasants, south of Shanghai, in a plant making bathroom products for export. They work seven days a week, twelve hours a day for approximately $.45 an hour or about $250 a month. Each month they save about $150 dollars to send back to their village. The factory owner feels he is doing his workers a service; rural China is overpopulated and industrialization is the only answer for surplus peasants.
The Fans left the country, reluctantly, because of the depression facing Chinese agriculture. They once made $3000 a year from their orchards, but falling commodity prices, exacerbated by an overvalued yuan, forced the Fans to try new ventures to make a living. All attempts failed, leaving them deeply in debt to their neighbors, feeling overwhelming shame. Given the fact that the money economy has become more expensive, a single hospitalization cost Heqing $1500 dollars, or half a years salary. Even more prosperous peasants are leaving the village because factory work provides a low but reliable wage.
This year the Fans decide to return home for a four day visit during the Chinese New Year celebrations. They have left their two young children with their grandparents for over two years and strains are developing in their relationship. One unexamined cost of China's rapid industrialization is its impact on a whole generation of children who are in effect orphaned. The reunion is bittersweet and emotional; the young daughter will not sleep or let her mother out of her sight because she is so afraid she will leave. And soon the Fans do leave with the expectation of not returning home for three more years.
Eventually the force stage behind this unprecedented industrial revolution emerges: the Chinese Communist Party. In the village, Heqing and a group of friends and local Party officials sing a drunken version of the "Internationale" and toast the Party and its recent reforms for China's growing prosperity. Back at the factory, we watch the Fans participating in a study group where they learn the 8 Virtues and Vices of a worker, in essence, to place the interest of the community before your own and to see the interest of the boss as the same as yourr own. Yet the motivation for everyone is personal survival and private advancement. The Fans' greatest hope for their children is that they receive an education so they will not succumb to the fate of factory workers or peasantry, but can instead join China's new, prosperous, professional elite. The cognitive dissonance between official socialist ideology and the harsh but dynamic realities of capitalist growth is not the least part of the Chinese economic miracle. As the film ends, the owner of the Fan's plant proudly surveys the site for his new next expansion: farm lands requisitioned by the state, whose displaced peasants apprehensively face an uncertain future like the Fans.
"In a profoundly moving way, this beautifully photographed film captures the rhythms of work and home life in one of China's new factory towns and an ancient village, and the links between them. It shows the exceptionally demanding physical as well as emotional labor behind China's economic miracle. Made in China simultaneously stimulates your mind and your heart." - Thomas Gold, Professor, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley "Made in China opens a window into the difficult lives and many sacrifices of the migrant laborers who are powering that country's economic boom as well as conveying the pain and heartbreak of the children they often have to leave behind back in the villages." - Martin K. Whyte, Professor of Sociology & Chinese Studies, Harvard University "While Made in China reveals much about the hardships that the migrants encounter, it also contains striking vignettes of China's mixed political climate in which themes of past and present are intertwined. It is a film well worth seeing." - Thomas Bernstein, Professor emeritus, Columbia University "Made in China is an unusual story telling. It follows a peasant family that experienced new opportunities, failure, migration and separation in the process of China's rapid industrialization in the past three decades. This film moves beyond China's aggregate statistics of growth and focuses on individual lives that are extremely dependent on, but can not be settled solely by monetary gains at the time of great transformation." - You-tien Hsing, Professor, Department of Geography, UC Berkeley
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