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Gender and the South China MiracleTwo Worlds of Factory Women$
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Ching Kwan Lee

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780520211254

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520211254.001.0001

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Localistic Despotism

Localistic Despotism

(p.109) Chapter Six Localistic Despotism
Gender and the South China Miracle

Ching Kwan Lee

University of California Press

Dagongzai, a generic term for “workers laboring for the bosses,” had become the new collective identity claimed by millions of workers in south China since the mid-1980s. In everyday language, this term designated a newly formed social group whose presence could hardly be missed by observers of any city or town in south China. “Worker” was, of course, no new social category in a socialist society whose official ideology extolled workers as “masters” of the country. However, whereas “workers” referred largely to the masses laboring in state or collective enterprises, depending on these danwei (state units) for standardized wages and welfare, dagongzai worked in “bosses' factories.” This latter type of enterprise was brought about by economic reforms and the term conjured up a contradictory image: it had an aura of modernity and prosperity on the one hand, and the reality of unrestrained and ruthless exploitation on the other.

Keywords:   dagongzai, workers, China, socialist society, danwei, standardized wages, welfare, reforms

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