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Scattered Sand: The Story of China's Rural Migrants Hardcover – August 21, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1844678860 ISBN-10: 1844678865 Edition: 1st
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Scattered Sand: The Story of China's Rural Migrants + China's Urban Billion: The Story behind the Biggest Migration in Human History (Asian Arguments)
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Editorial Reviews


“Pai’s book is exceptional not only in the depth of her research, but also in giving a voice to the people she befriends. Essential to understand the human reality behind China’s so-called economic miracle.”—Wall Street Journal

“Hsiao-Hung Pai brings her knowledge of China’s history to this detailed examination of the plight of the millions of peasants searching for work in China’s booming cities and, failing that, in other countries...A grim but keen view of the dark underside of China’s prosperity.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The Chinese ‘miracle’ gets a reality check in this engrossing exposé ... A moving contribution to the growing literature on the new China, the book will prove relevant for anyone interested in ongoing debates around migrant labor in a globalized economy.”—Publishers Weekly

“Eloquent and wide-ranging, Scattered Sand not only does justice, eloquently and comprehensively, to [migrant workers’] increasingly marginal position in Chinese society, it also provides useful whirlwind introductions to Chinese labor policy, local government corruption, and minority discrimination, among other issues.”—Ross Perlin, The Daily Beast

“The product of thorough reporting among China’s most marginalised citizens shows what can be discovered despite official obstruction.”—New Statesmen

“It focuses on contemporary China, where the scale of rural migration—over 130 million men and women have left their home provinces in search of work—makes the demographic debates about modern-day Europe seem parochial and hysterical. It pays tribute to a class of people that, although exalted under Mao as a revolutionary vanguard, has constantly to face the threat of pauperisation. It amplifies sounds—plaintive chants, desperate petitions, exhausted prayers, sceptical curses—that are often drowned out by the stentorian boosterism of the state loudspeaker.”—The Observer

“Hsiao-Hung Pai’s intrepid journalism is one of the most revealing guides to contemporary China.”—Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire

“Scattered Sand captures the sadness, resilience and anger of China’s millions of internal and international migrants. This illuminating book effortlessly interweaves individual voices, rarely heard by English-speaking audiences, with the history, politics and economics that shape migrants’ stories and their choices.”—Bridget Anderson, author of Doing the Dirty Work: The Global Politics of Domestic Labor

“What Pai accomplishes is that difficult thing: to combine deftly personal testimonies with statistics. One never wonders, after some particularly ghastly first-person observation, whether this is too awful to be generally true.”—Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review

“In documenting lives and deaths of stunning deprivation and equally stunning dignity, [Pai] is helped considerably by her style, which is restrained and workmanlike. She has no axe to grind and will not stoop to pity; she is here to tell us what is happening in the fields and factories of the world we share.”—Book News

About the Author

Hsiao-Hung Pai is a freelance journalist, whose report on the Morecambe Bay tragedy for the Guardian was made into the film Ghosts. Her book on undocumented Chinese immigrants in Britain, Chinese Whispers, was shortlisted for the Orwell Book Prize in 2009. She lives in London.

Gregor Benton is Professor Emeritus of Chinese History at Cardiff. He has published twelve prior books on Marxism, political humor, the history of the Chinese Communist Party, Red guerillas in the 1930s, the Sino-Japanese War, dissent in China, Chinese Trotskyism, Hong Kong, the theory of moral economy, and overseas Chinese. His Mountain Fires: The Red Army’s Three-Year War in South China, 1934–1938 (1992) won several awards, including the Association of Asian Studies’ prize for the best book on modern China.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844678865
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844678860
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,310,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By paul reinhertz on December 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book, with much statistical documentation of the narrative.
One can only hope that the Chinese government
will somehow find the means to enshrine worker's rights,
promote unionization or perhaps even find a way to evolve into a consensus model
so that owners and workers can come to agreement on wages and benefits.
Of course, this presupposes that the judicial system also be reformed to support the law(s)
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By Hande Z on October 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Statistics is probably the tool most relied upon by economists and anthropologists in the study of emigration of people in search of work. "Scattered Sand", however, presents an enlightening study of the movement of large numbers of Chinese within China as well as the emigration of Chinese people to foreign countries, in search of work. This book's focus is not on the numbers (although estimates are given where official ones are unavailable). Pai scours China and befriends some of these people who were on the move. The stories are all personal and the reader will no longer study migration statistics without a face or two appearing. It may not be surprising if the image that comes to mind might be one from Pai's book. It might perhaps be that of Peng (the twenty-one-year old farmer from Liaoning who took a three-hour bus ride to Shenyang in search of work) eating his daily ration of four meat buns.

Rural people who ended up in urban cities were almost no different from having ended up in a foreign country. One can compare the emigrant Chinese in Britain and Europe (whose accounts were vividly documented by Pai in her interviews with them) with rural Chinese farmers who migrated to Chinese cities for work. People from different provinces from Fujian to Shandong, and from Guangdong to Xinjiang, were interviewed; and the diversity of the dialect and cultural profiles of the interviewees were matched only by the diversity of their problems. The Uighurs is ethnically Muslim and rarely moves inland because of the prejudice by Han Chinese against the Uighurs looking for work in Han territory. The lot of the emigrant/migrant Chinese in both situations seemed essentially the same.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book describes the lives of people left behind during China's dramatic economic rise and their desperate but highly determined search for any opportunities left open to them whether inside China or out. It is an important addition to, for example, Ezra Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, that examines the government's policy decisions in a mostly favourable light.
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