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Scattered Sand delivers an intimate portrait of China’s migrant workers’ shared quest to earn a living. Dozens of interviews shape the narrative in an impressive range of locations and industries across China, and as far as Russia and the UK. They cut across ethnicity as Yi, Uyghur, Tibetan, and native Taiwanese voices weave in unique accounts of persecution.
The book gives context for recent Chinese labour media coverage, including suicides and unrest at Apple supplier Foxconn. While highlighting export-oriented factories in the Pearl River Delta, Hsiao‑Hung Pai also delves into interior China’s brick-making kilns and coal mines, major industries rarely covered by international media, and even drug trafficking and prostitution. She visits labour markets nationwide to show the human faces of unemployment. Jobseekers warn of scams and report mostly failures; the greatest successes are gained through personal connections.
Pai proves the power of connections by visiting the families of migrant workers in Britain she came to know for her first book, Chinese Whispers. Most heartbreaking are her interviews with families of the 23 Chinese migrants killed in the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy.
Pai’s own family ties are compelling. Her mother moved to Taiwan during the 1949 communist revolution, leaving family behind in rural Shandong province. She discovers that economically their countryside has also been left behind, and they are mired in the same desperate poverty that motivates many rural people to seek urban jobs.
Coupling contemporary coverage with straightforward political and cultural history, the book analyses major historical events, including the Olympics and global financial crisis. After the Wenchuan earthquake, Pai complements an eyewitness account of a collapsed school encircled by erect commercial buildings with an explanation of the corruption that caused this travesty.
A strong sense of history informs Scattered Sand’s analysis of a wide range of industries, events and communities, and it is particularly useful to situate China’s turbulent history within its breakneck development. Through superb storytelling and historical analysis, Pai succeeds in showing many human faces of Chinese growth.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns