China, like India, is changing rapidly. The drivers of the change and the reactions to it differ between both countries. Rapid urbanisation, an increase in accesss to education and educational attainment and better health are just some of the causes and effects of these changes. Add to the mix a transition from production towards services and innovation and you have a potent and wide-ranging mix which drives social change as much as economic development. Yet, we are often discouraged from thinking about China or India, and the changes taking place, their people and their capacity as diverse or influential. But they are.
Social change is always fascinating. As Martin Jacques says:
“If you want to see the future, look at China”
Jacques posits the theory that the loss of a sense of the future is holding back the West, and that developments and changes in China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere represent perhaps the biggest act of democratisation we have yet seen. I agree in broad terms, though there are undoubted nuances which might bear closer examination.
This exhibition by Aowen Jin (‘Made in China: Factory Girls’ at The Brick Lane Gallery 17 – 23 September 2013) shows how female migrant workers’ lives are very different to our perceptions of them, and also how they are changing society in China. It is a solid research based look at people’s lives and how the factory girls of China are just like us. As their lives change, we are affected too. The sooner we grasp that fact the better.