Kev’s Thoughts On… Migrant workers vs. Lower-class urbanites

Posted: March 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

This is more of a question rather than an observation; something I hope some of you may be able to shed some light on. I myself have done little research on the subject, but hope to learn more in the near future.

What is the dynamics of the relationship between the class of migrant workers and the class of lower-income urbanites in China?

Economically, they are not very far apart (I actually don’t know the numerical difference, if someone knows, please tell me!) but what interests me more is each class’ perception of the other and their interaction with each other.

Their lifestyles are different, their spending habits are different, their experience and perception of the large, urban metropolises are different. And yet they share somewhat the same economic space in society.

If any one needs clarification of what I mean by Migrant Worker and Lower-Class Urbanite, I broadly define them as this:

Migrant workers are those whose families and ‘home’ is in a rural or extra-urban environment. This group comes into the city mainly to work, with holidays or time off usually used by travelling back ‘home’. The majority of their salary is saved for the purpose of sending back to the remainder of their family members who reside in rural villages/towns. As migrants, they are technically illegal citizens of the city, and therefore work at their own risk with no governmental or legal benefits.

Lower-class urbanites I describe as those whose ‘home’ is in the city, who’s spending stays within the city, with no transfer of funds going out of the city. Employment is highly competitive with migrant workers, and many depend on government welfare subsidies.

I am most interested in how each class views advancement opportunities; expectations about the future for their children. I also think its interesting to observe whether there is animosity between these classes, or apathy. Does one look down on the other?

These questions are important because they give us insight into the next generation of urban Chinese, the foundations to a new fabric of Chinese society. We have learned from North America’s own history that many migrant workers eventually become urbanized, becoming the fresh blood in the regenerative ecosystem of an urban center. But China’s urbanization may take a different developmental path because of the “migrant” worker, something North America had less experience with. (Because early North America’s supply of low-wage workers came from overseas, permanent relocation or immigration was the only economical option, thus solidifying immigrant workers as the new lower-class urbanite). Even within North America’s urban development, lower-class immigrants have had factional conflicts (some that carry on today). China may not have the extreme racial differences in the lower-class, but it has the dichotomy between permanent lower-class urbanites and true migrant workers.

Understanding these two class’ interactions, and even helping to smooth the integration, will draw a clearer picture of China’s emerging modern society. Understanding this experience between these two classes is imperative, because today’s lower-class children, urbanite or migrant, is tomorrow’s middle or upper-middle class consumer. And the lessons they learn from watching their parent’s struggling experience will have great influence on their decision-making behaviour.

Kev’s Thoughts On… More Olympics & Media, Four Years Forward

Posted: March 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

It seems that un-wanted media outbreaks are going to be the norm from here on out gearing up for the Olympics. As most of you are aware, there has been a lot happening in Tibet of late. So much so that YouTube has been blocked out of China again, at certain times cars are not allowed to drive past Tiananmen Square, and even my friend’s integrated foreign-Chinese play has been shut down from performing in the central province of Sichuan, just because it may be to “risky”.

I think its going to continue all the way through to the Olympics, with every organization and lobbying group using this occasion as a platform for their own specific agenda. I guess that’s to be expected. A lot of people are apprehensive about what’s happening, starting with Tibet and anxious to see what will spring up next. William Moss, writer of the blog Imagethief, one of the more popular expat bloggers in China, writes: “The Chinese expected the Olympics to change foreign perceptions of China for the better. Foreigners expected the Olympics to change China for the better.” You can read the blog here.

Its interesting though, that with this Tibet situation, all the news agencies are declaring that for the first time, China has “admitted” that the protests have spread beyond Tibet’s borders. This viral media situation is in continuation of the CCTV-Anchor’s wife scandal, and the Edison scandal mentioned last posting. Maybe this is the tipping point where China really can no longer control every aspect of information flow in and out of China. Perhaps new media now has enough momentum and diffusion that it can force the Chinese government’s hand for a marginally more transparent media environment. BusinessWeek seems to think so: “…the crackdown failed as witnesses bypassed the country’s “Great Firewall” by uploading photos and videos to other, uncensored Web sites.” The article can be found here.

Regardless, I think we are all hoping that China can handle everything that is coming its way. Not trying to discount the importance of the causes that these groups are trying to raise awareness for, but most people agree peaceful and steady progress is the key to everything. While we celebrate new media and the multitude of capabilities, opportunities and changes it grants on societies and cultures all over the world, it is important to be cautious and even critical on how we use it.

We haven’t discovered yet whether crowd-sourcing and the web 2.0 public wields responsibility with its increased influence. I think China will really be the testing grounds for finding the answers to that question. With the last three media-frenzied events, and those still coming, I hope China, the public and the world are ready and responsible for how we handle Web 2.0′s full emergence onto the world stage.