I'd like to invite you all to a lunchtime talk next Monday, May 7 about urbanization in China and the massive flow of people from the rural interior to the cities. The urban hotspots we visited in China -- Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing -- are also some of the biggest magnets in this migration. Remember our tour guide in Shenzhen talking about her own story? She packed up, moved to the city without a job, and searched for work, hoping to find employment before her savings ran out.
Journalist and author Michelle Loyalka recently published a book called "Eating Bitterness," chronicling the stories of these migrants -- the challenges they face, and the perseverance they show against the odds. (She is also a friend of Rachel Enslow, the China Energy alum who helped arrange our Goldwind visit!)
"Eating Bitterness" shines a light on a population that is often forgotten, both at home and abroad, even as migrants are powering China's rapid rise: laboring in factories to churn out goods, peddling wares and groceries to households, even constructing the very fabric of cities.
Michelle's talk is an opportunity to better understand a major driver in Chinese society today. Though economics and politics are most often featured in the news, we must also recognize that the story of China is fundamentally about human beings. Hope to see you there!
“Eating Bitterness” - China’s Great Urban Migration
Michelle Dammon Loyalka
Monday, May 7
Old Union Room 215
Sponsored by FACES (Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford) and the Center for East Asian Studies.
Every year, over 200 million peasants flock to China’s urban centers, providing a profusion of cheap labor that helps fuel the country’s staggering economic growth. Award-winning journalist Michelle Dammon Loyalka will discuss her newly published book, which follows the trials and triumphs of eight such migrants—including a vegetable vendor, an itinerant knife sharpener, a free-spirited recycler, and a cash-strapped mother—offering an inside look at the pain, self-sacrifice, and uncertainty underlying China’s dramatic national transformation. At the heart of their stories lies each person’s ability to “eat bitterness" or 吃苦, a term that roughly means to endure hardships, overcome difficulties, and forge ahead. These stories illustrate why China continues to advance, even while much of the world remains embroiled in financial turmoil. At the same time, "Eating Bitterness" demonstrates how dealing with the issues facing this class of people constitutes China’s most pressing domestic challenge. More info at: http://www.eatingbitterness.com
About the author
Michelle Dammon Loyalka is an award winning journalist who has lived in China since 1997. A sought-after speaker, she has spoken on issues related to China’s migration and urbanization at the United Nations, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the National Committee on US-China Relations. Her work on the psychological repercussions of China’s rapid development has earned her both an Overseas Press Club scholarship and the O.O. McIntyre Fellowship. She has written for publications such as The New York Times, Fast Company and BusinessWeek.
“A thorough and insightful examination of the gritty, arduous side of the Chinese economic miracle.”
“A vivid portrait of the migrant experience in the burgeoning western Chinese city of Xi'an. . . . An insightful look at the hard lives of real people caught in a cultural transition.”
“What Loyalka finds is fascinating. . . . Details . . . make the book read like an ethnography, with a lot of first-hand discovery, and give it lasting power as a historical record of the biggest, fastest urbanization
in human history.”
—San Francisco Chronicle