From Der Spiegel:
Xiao Ju's story breaks my heart. The circumstances of her existence is so bleak:
The promise of prosperity lured Quan Xiaoju from her home in rural China to the assembly lines in the bustling city of Guangzhou. Now, like countless other migrant workers, she is heading back home as the jobs dry up and China's boom comes to an end.
As she bids farewell to Guangzhou, a city of nine million people, there is hardly enough time for a wistful look back -- at the teeming crowds of migrant workers with copious amounts of luggage in front of the city's train station, or at its bold downtown highway, built on stilts, and still packed with cars despite the economic crisis.
The crowd pushes forward relentlessly, literally forcing Quan Xiaoju to enter the station. Xiaoju, a petite migrant worker, quickly places her belongings -- a black-and-white plaid suitcase and a small plastic bag -- on the conveyor belt at the security checkpoint before being pushed onward, then up an escalator and into one of the enormous waiting rooms.China's global factory is shedding its slave-like workers, cost-effectively and efficiently, almost as if they too were products on an assembly line. They sit in long rows, shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting for the trains that will take them back to their home provinces, to the places they once left for China's industrial east, lured by the promise of prosperity. Xiaoju (her name means "Little Chrysanthemum") finally has time to catch her breath and look around. She has a few more minutes left before her northbound train to Hengyang, in Hunan Province, is scheduled to depart.
The station is busy as it would normally be before the Chinese New Year, when companies in Guangdong Province -- the enormous export factory that borders Hong Kong and includes the burgeoning large cities of Shenzhen and Dongguan -- collectively send armies of migrant workers home on vacation. But this time the exodus is involuntary and unforeseen, and likely to last for an extended period of time -- and the mood is understandably gloomy.
A daughter of poor farmers born into China's dying countryside. Goes to the big city to work in a factory where she's given the opportunity to slave away for miniscule sums of money. Then one day she's told to go home. Not because of any problem of her creation. But because nobody wants the shoddy jewelry she makes anymore. She then has nothing left to do but return back to the bleak rural poverty of her home village.
It's even more gut-wrenching when you think about the millions of people like Xiao Ju who are in her exact same predicament.
At the end of the article, Xiao Ju laments that the life she dreamed of one day having in Guangzhou is gone. But she seems confident that one day she'll have the chance, again, to find work in a southern Chinese factory.
Ironically, in Xiao Ju's life, slavery in a factory is freedom. Working seven days a week with toxic chemicals making low-quality goods for pennies an hour is the beacon of hope in her, otherwise, doomed existence.
Such is the tragedy of China's rural migrant population.