I was in Dongguan on business several times in late-2007, back when life was fun and good. I wrote about an unforgettable event I saw there, and about the level of energy and excitement I saw. So much opportunity and hope. Limitless possibilities.
Not anymore. If this post is to be believed, and I have no reason to think otherwise (except perhaps that I want to not believe it), Dongguang has become a bit less inviting.
As I was out at a factory in Dongguang today I saw lines of people looking for work outside most of the factories we drove past. This is just one that we happened to stop in front of in traffic long enough for me to snap a quick photo. I counted 25 people or more outside multiple factory gates. I haven’t seen this since 2005.
Second, a security note. Two other people (who shall remain nameless), while in a different part of Dongguang today, saw a group of people on the side of the road hack another person to death (at least they think he died) with a machete. They kept on driving, sped up even, to get out of there as quickly as possible.
If you have money or are alone I would highly recommend that you DO NOT go out at night in any of the industrial areas outside of Shenzhen. This would include Songgang, Dongguang, Longgang, Bao’an, Guanlan, Shiyan, Huizhou and other areas with tons of (unemployed) migrant workers and not a lot of policing or economic development.
I’ve seen fights, I’ve seen people get robbed and beaten, I’ve seen a woman and child get run over by large dump trucks, I’ve even seen a dead body on the street (at least I think it was dead), I’ve had family tell me about kidnappings they’ve seen, I’ve had family robbed at knife point and I’ve been pick-pocketed numerous times myself. I’ve had clients tell me about huge gang fights they’ve see while making side excursions in shopping malls! I even chased down and dragged to the police station two guys who tried to steal my bike once. But I’ve never seen anything like this before.
Desperate people do desperate things. And right now in the manufacturing cities, times are as desperate as they can get. Except it will probably gets worse before it gets better. As many have said, there is no way this crisis will end without blood on the streets. The big question is whether this violence will spread from random acts of murder and robbery committed by hungry, desperate workers to an actual assault on China’s government. I think the government will be stable and will survive, for better or for worse. For some interesting perspectives on this question, see this post and its comments.
It’s going to be along, painful, frightening year. The Chinese people know that, and seem to believe their government is handling it as best they can. There’ll be more and nastier demonstrations, there’ll be more deaths and more despair. There’s won’t be a revolution, at least not from this crisis. People have planned and saved for it, and they are far more frightened of the chaos a revolution would bring than of the continued rule of a dictatorship most of the country credits with vast improvements in their lives. And again, that is not necessarily my personal viewpoint, but it is certainly the viewpoint of the man on in the street, whether in the Central Business District of Beijing or the train station in Kunming.
Silk Road link via Fool’s Mountain
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.