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  • Three Poems
  • Ping Wang

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With your right hand, you slip strips of
metal under a hammer backed by
4,000 pounds of pressure; with your
left, you sweep molded parts into a
pile. You do this once a second for a China makes 80 percent of the toys
10-hour shift, minus a half-hour lunch. sold in America.
You must concentrate. You must not
lose a beat, or it's all over.
    Wang Chenghua, migrant worker
    with crushed fingers [End Page 106]
Neon banners on Yiwu World Trade
Center: CONSTRUCT THE WORLD'S
BIGGEST MARKET / BUILD AN
INTERNATIONAL SHOPPING
You tell them to pay attention, and they HEAVEN
don't listen. They have no culture or
education. They are told many times to
be safe, and they just don't get it.
    Shi Yanxin, owner of Hua
    Xin Electronics Yiwu, the most sizzling city in Zhejiang
Province, makes trinkets that fill stores
the world over. A half million migrant
At fourteen, my son left to work in the workers live in and around this city of
city. Fifteen years passed. He still borrows 640,000 residents.
money to look for jobs. To make
money, you have to leave. Nobody has
made much, but we can't go home.
Nothing left in the village. Everything
broken, broken.
    Cai Songquan, farmer from Yongkang, the hardware capital of
    Caijia Village China, has 7,000 privately owned factories
making hinges, hubcaps, pots,
power drills, thermoses, plugs, and
headphones and filling the shelves of
Wal-Mart with products that get better
and cheaper each year. Yongkang
means "eternal health" in Chinese. It is
also the dismemberment capital: there
The riskiest jobs, as in war, go to new are 2,500 accidents each year and thousands
recruits fresh from the farm. Young more that are unreported.
migrants are hired at the train station
to run metal stampers, molders, and
high-pressure hammers driven by flywheels.
Few workers last a month. We have always met the government's
standard for safety. Otherwise, they
would not let us operate.
Kang Ziying, lawyer for Lucky Gem & Jewelry
Of course, life has improved. We
couldn't have imagined any of this ten
years ago. This small town with mud
houses now has an airport, a world
trade center, skyscrapers, hundreds of
factories, hotels, and two Middle Eastern
restaurants with belly dancers. We
hardly had any schooling, but our
daughter studies marketing at college.
    Jin Xiaoqin, owner of Yiwu Toys [End Page 107]
From their rice paddies, the villagers
watch trucks whiz by on the new cross-national
They've been pushing down the rates. superhighway, carrying goods
We used to get 3.5 fen per toy, but now made by their teenage sons and daughters
they are just paying 2.5 fen—less than far away—goods they will never
one-tenth of an American penny. see.
When the orders are high, we work 14
hours a day, 7 days a week, and might
clear $120 in a month. More typical is
$90 a month, and in a slow month, $50.
It's not enough to get by on.
    Cai Gaoxiang, migrant worker
    at Yiwu Toys You have no right to speak. You have
no right to organize.
Each eyelash is assembled from 464     Hu Xu, owner of Xu Xing Metals
inch-long strands of human hair,
placed in a crisscross pattern on a thin
strip of tranparent glue. It takes an
hour to complete a pair. We work 14-
hour shifts, but can't make enough for
a bonus. Kin Ki and other big producers have
    Wei Qi, 16, migrant worker come under greater pressure to adhere
    from Anshan to global labor codes. They open their
doors to foreign inspectors to assuage
concerns that products used to entertain
children in rich countries are not
Life was poorer under Mao—you were made under oppressive conditions in
lucky if you had a pair of pants—but it poor ones.was more equal.
    Cai Songquan, farmer from
    Caijia Village The goal conflicts with price pressures
in commodity industries like toys.
China alone has 8,000 toy makers
competing fiercely for contracts by
I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
pp. 106-111
Launched on MUSE
2005-07-07
Open Access
No
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