Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip
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One of The Economist's Best Books of the Year
From the bestselling author of Oracle Bones and River Town comes the final book in his award-winning trilogy on the human side of the economic revolution in China.
Peter Hessler, whom the Wall Street Journal calls "one of the Western world's most thoughtful writers on modern China," deftly illuminates the vast, shifting landscape of a traditionally rural nation that, having once built walls against foreigners, is now building roads and factory towns that look to the outside world.
said. “Those factories were started early, and back then there weren’t good standards. We have rules about this now. The government’s Environmental Protection Agency came here this year and did a long inspection, more than a month total. They said we’re on the forefront of this industry.” Director Wang told me that Lishui was limiting the number of pleather factories to twenty-six, because they didn’t want this to become their dominant product. As a strategy, it seemed risky—invite a group of
hygiene, willing to eat bitterness and work hard Boss Wang needed men to handle the big metal punch presses, which manufacture the rough rings used on the Machine’s assembly line. Mostly, though, he planned to hire women. The majority of the factory’s jobs were unskilled and required little strength: workers had to sort underwire, monitor assembly lines, and package finished bra rings. Like other factory managers, Boss Wang expressed a strong preference for young female workers. “Girls have
get to keep any of the money you make, do you?” “She needs to learn independence,” Master Luo said. “I’d like to go,” Yufeng admitted. “But if my father says I have to stay, then maybe I can find a job in a shoe factory and learn some technical skills.” “That’s a joke!” Old Tian said. “You’re not going to find a technical job at your age.” “Come with us,” Master Luo said. “Learn to be on your own, and then next year you can go to Guangzhou or Shanghai, an exciting place like that.” He told
of a long low building with a huge smokestack emitting billowing white clouds. Nearby, hundreds of rusty metal barrels had been lined up beneath a makeshift rain cover. A slogan decorated a wall: IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT, EVERYBODY HAS RESPONSIBILITY I wandered into the compound, where nobody minded that I was uninvited. A worker escorted me to an office, and a man in a dark suit handed me his card: Ye Chunsheng, vice president of Renli. He explained that Renli is a private
age. What does it mean when the Great Wall becomes a cell phone accessory? Or when computer discs are most useful because they bounce light? Everything was tangled in these parts; there was no distinction between progress and improvisation. In the town of Yanchi, I got my hair washed and went for a stroll along the main street. It was another dry, forgotten place, located six miles within the wall; the name means “Salt Pool.” While I was walking, a motorcyclist drove past slowly, and then he hit