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If a worker's cellphone is stolen, as they often are, friends, boyfriends and mentors may be lost to her forever."The easiest thing in the world," Chang remarks more than once, "was to lose touch with someone." People living their lives "on fast-forward" in this manner would seem to resist any kind of comprehensive portraiture by a reporter.
Dongguan's laborers assemble cellphones, but they purchase them as well, and with their speed-dial archives of acquaintances, the phones become a sort of lifeline, the only way to keep track of the breakneck comings and goings of friends.Migrant workers now swarm every city in China, where they are easily identified by their cheap clothes and vacant facial expressions.In Chinese, they are known as the "floating population." Whether there are 130 million or 200 million migrant workers -- no one can count them -- many social scientists assert that they represent the largest migration in human history. Chang delves deeply into the world of migrant workers to find out who these people are and what their collective dislocation means for China.By delving so deeply into the lives of her subjects, Chang succeeds in exploring the degree to which China's factory girls are exploited — working grueling hours in sometimes poor conditions for meager wages with little job security — without allowing the book to degenerate into a diatribe.There is never any doubt that the factory owners in Hong Kong and Taiwan — and the consumers in American shopping malls — have the better end of the bargain.