Crystal Jimenez

Professor Wexler


December 5, 2016

Working Without A Wage: Chinese Laborers and Their Struggles

Matt Sheehan’s article ,“A Day in the Life of a Muslim Chinese Migrant Family”, explores the particular struggles of a specific group of Chinese citizens but also shines a light on how the evolving landscape of China’s largest cities creates a revolving door for the poorest citizens, pushing them through repeating cycles of work without offering any opportunity for forward mobility.

At the start of the article Sheehan introduces the Mao family, made up of two parents and three children. The three children are Baolong, the fourteen-year-old son, Fang Fang, the nineteen-year-old daughter, and Yufang, a second daughter. They all, with the exception of Yufang, work together in this restaurant, which is “a family business through and through, funded by family savings and operated by everyone”(Sheehan). Discuss the long work hours of the family. “It’s a grueling schedule, with the only benefit being that no one has time to reflect on how grueling it is” (Sheehan). With all the work being dedicated to this business, what benefit lies ahead for this family? No expansion, no savings, no free time, and nothing to pass down to the next generation.

“A Silicon Valley denizen might describe the Mao family as ‘serial entrepeneurs’. They’ve opened and closed about half a dozen restaurants in different cities. The current location is their third in Beijing. The previous two were bulldozed to make way for new construction, and this one will almost certainly meet the same fate” (Sheehan).

“The restaurant’s patrons are primarily men who work with their hands; construction crews, delivery men and self-employed mechanics” (Sheehan). The family makes a living off of feeding the same construction workers whose work continues to put the Mao’s out of business. The construction crews come into towns from rural areas, tear down buildings, and build up news ones. As they work, they move closet and closer the area where the Mao’s have set up their business and have no choice but to wait until the crews get there. They won’t leave for two reasons, the first being that no matter where they go, they already no it will only be a matter of time before the crews catch up, but the second being that they their business exists to serve these workers. They’ll go where the construction crews go because that is where the work it. At least until there is nowhere left to house their business. That is where the cycle ends for the Mao’s.

Pun Ngai and Xu Yi wrote the article “Legal Activism or Class Action? The Political Economy of the ‘No Boss’ and ‘No Labour Relationship’ in China’s Construction Industry”, which examines how the peasant working class has found themselves in China’s largest cities. They write, “”