Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China's Great Urban Migration

Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China's Great Urban Migration

Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China's Great Urban Migration

Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China's Great Urban Migration

Synopsis

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 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 the book lies each person's ability to "eat bitterness"--a term that roughly means to endure hardships, overcome difficulties, and forge ahead. These stories illustrate why China continues to advance, even as the rest 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.

Excerpt

Little more than sixty years ago, China was an impoverished and underdeveloped nation. Though among the world’s most advanced civilizations throughout much of history, in the middle of the nineteenth century it was debilitated by opium addiction and invaded by imperial powers. In the first half of the twentieth century, the nation’s progress was stymied by the collapse of its four thousand-year-old dynastic system, hampered by eight years of conflict with the Japanese, and stalled by an outbreak of civil war. When the Communist Party came to power in 1949, the country made initial gains, but those advances were soon disrupted by a wild ride through collectivization, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution.

Three decades ago, the government launched a series of reforms to help modernize the country and invigorate its economy. Since then, China has lifted a record 230 million people out of poverty. Its nominal GDP has increased seventy-five times over, and today it boasts the world’s second largest economy. It is also . . .

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