Each year, 200 million workers from China’s vast rural interior travel between cities and provinces in search of employment: the largest human migration in history. This indispensable army of labour accounts for half of China’s GDP, but is an unorganized workforce—‘scattered sand’, in Chinese parlance—and the most marginalized and impoverished group of workers in the country.
For two years, the award-winning journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai travelled across China, visiting labourers on Olympic construction sites, in the coal mines and brick kilns of the Yellow River region, and at the factories of the Pearl River Delta. She witnessed the outcome of the 2009 riots in the Muslim province of Xinjiang; saw towns in rubble more than a year after the colossal earthquake in Sichuan; and was reunited with long-lost relatives, estranged since her mother’s family fled for Taiwan during the Civil War. Scattered Sand is the result of her travels: a finely wrought portrait of those left behind by China’s dramatic social and economic advances.
To mark 'International Migrants' Day', we publish an article by London2Calais, an group of activists who have been organising supplies and activities in solidarity with those trapped in 'the Jungle' refugee camp. With the global number of refugees having passed the 20million mark for the first time since 1992, they highlight the interconnected political drivers of the exodus - largely western imperialism, regional and national authoritarianism, predatory global capitalism, and a violent, exclusionary border regime.
The delayed and despicable reactions of politicians from the foot-dragging David Cameron to the racist, "radical right" Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán to the current refugee crisis have resulted in a global upsurge of activism, with tens of thousands signed up to rally in central London and across Europe this Saturday as part of #EuropeSaysWelcome: European Day of Action for Refugees. The continent’s conscience has been moved as people all over the world upturn the racist, exclusionary narratives of politicians and the liberal and right-wing press with acts of compassion, generosity and everyday solidarity.
We have put together a reading list intended to better our understanding of the underlying causes of the crisis, including: racism, political inertia and capitalist war.
I've been reading the later work of Derrida, in which the intensity about language remains but there's also a turn towards the thorniest questions of ethics. There's a remarkable passage in "The Gift of Death" (1995) that gets at something the news isn't touching on:
"...because of the structure of the laws of the market that society has instituted and controls, because of the mechanisms of external debt and other comparable inequities, that same 'society' puts to death or (but failing to help someone in distress accounts only for a minor difference) allows to die of hunger and disease tens of millions of children…without any moral or legal tribunal ever being considered competent to judge such a sacrifice, the sacrifice of the other to avoid being sacrificed oneself. Not only does such a society participate in this incalculable sacrifice, it actually organizes it."