The Great Migration

Chinese peasants are fleeing their villages to chase big-city dreams

When I first met Mo Meiquan, in August of this year, she looked small and very young in her light-blue work smock. Just 18, she was clearly nervous about talking to a foreign reporter, maybe because we were sitting in a restaurant just across from the gates of Triton Media Co., where she worked checking video and audiocassettes for flaws. Winning her trust was crucial, because I hoped to understand what had prompted her to forsake her village in China's Southwest for the grinding life of an assembly-line worker in the nation's export belt. Meiquan assiduously avoided my gaze as she described the long hours and repetitive work that dominated her life.

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