1 The ﬁrst factory ﬁre to occur in a foreign-invested industrial area of China was in
May 1990 in Dongguan, a highly industrialized zone of the Pearl River Delta. This
ﬁre caused the death of over eighty workers in a Hong Kong capital-owned
factory, which produced raincoats for export to Western markets. My ﬁrst en-
counter with Chinese migrant workers was due to this blaze when I paid a visit to
the injured workers in a hospital in Guangzhou. Later I made another visit to the
hospital with my good friend Chan Yu, with whom I conducted a joint ﬁeld study
in four villages in Hubei in July 1990 to trace and record the home villages of the
injured workers of the factory.
2 Note that pseudonyms have been used for the names of all factory personnel
throughout this volume.
The quote from Xiaoming here, as well as all other quotes from factory workers
and management sta√ members, were taken from the notes I compiled during my
ﬁeldwork in China in 1990, 1993, and 1995–1996. All translations in the text are
mine unless otherwise indicated.
3 For a vivid description and analysis of the hukou system in constraining the
di√erent life chances and rights of the Chinese urban and rural populations, see
4 For a discussion of the changing forms of family in post-Mao China, see Davis
and Harrell 1993.
5 Many married women in the rural areas did struggle with going out as dagongmei