In his old job, my first friend worked three shifts. The factory was too far away, and his body started having some problems. He quit and switched to his current job, looking forward to less overtime and higher pay. The boss said that next year he could get a raise of 100 RMB every month, and 100 RMB more the year after. Last week, my friend told me that his father might go abroad to find work as a mason. After three years abroad, he could make 200,000. I asked him what he planned to do. He said: That’s it, there’s nothing I can do. His mother earns almost nothing–800 RMB a month. In this family living on the outskirts of Shanghai,the kid is over 20 years old and can expect to see 50; the father is over 50 years old and needs to spend two years in a foreign country [just to find a job that pays decent wages]. Even though this family hates the migrant workers, who take all the jobs in the surrounding factories, depress monthly wages by several hundred RMB, and outnumber locals by 10 to 1, they are forced to rely on the migrants for rent, which brings in more than 10,000 extra in income every year.
This is what life is like for your average person living on the outskirts of Shanghai. And this family is pretty well off too. This is why Foxconn has so many building jumpers: mechanical work, a hopeless future, and a low salary. But if you go somewhere else, the salary is even lower and the prices are high. You don’t have enough money to do anything but eat your fill and put clothes on your back. And yet the government spreads its propaganda throughout to world, trying to turn having enough to eat into some enormous contribution and remarkable achievement, quick to throw out some ancient statistic or picture from the Ice Age to prove that you should be thankful to the state that you have enough to eat; what more can you expect? Even though my friend is under a lot of pressure, he still has friends and family who are only 20 km away. Most of the young workers have families living several thousand kilometers away, and their families don’t have enough to keep warm. The amount you can earn is often the only standard for determining a child’s value in this world.
This is the group of people with whom the majority of China’s netizens are least familiar. It’s rare that you see a Foxconn spokesman visit an online message board to recount the life story of one of its suicides, because they have neither the time nor the ability to tell it. The debauchery taking place outside (Translator’s note: This refers perhaps to the Shanghai Expo) has absolutely nothing to do with these workers; they have no love in their lives. There is no third party in this world [that can determine one’s value]; reality is the biggest third party. Maybe it was only when jumping from a building that the lives of these suicides finally revealed their worth. Everything that made up their lives has been mentioned and recorded; it’s too bad that now they’ve become statistics too.