Monday, February 23, 2009

Migrants, the NYT, and social stability

The New York Times has another piece on the potential for migrant unrest in China this year. While there are clearly many migrants out of work, all this reporting on migrants as a brewing pot of discontent is starting to get on my nerves. Nowhere in the piece does Andrew Jacobs quote any migrants who are actually angry, or even talking about stirring up trouble. The strongest quote probably comes from Tan Liangsheng, a 52 year-old man who lost his construction job. "We have no savings," Jacobs quotes Tan as saying. "All our hard work and bitterness is invested in this house." The piece quotes an academic saying that these guys have very low expectations, and makes the fair point that there is little land for many to go back to. But what Jacobs misses is that the migrants he interviews don't seem to be angry - that there is a real gap between what the government is saying and what he is hearing in his interviews. Sure, these migrants are worried. But they're not angry, not now. All this talk of migrants as potential sources for unrest makes me think back to the old discussion of migrants as the floating population, creating problems for people in the cities. For more on this, see Dorothy Solinger's excellent book, Contesting Citizenship in Urban China. Totally unrelated to this, check out this piece on my recent speech at the University of Delaware. (Picture courtesy of via Flickr)

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