The Marginalized Second Generation Peasants

Here is my translation of the commentary:-

“Human beings are the subjects of a development process. Development policies should aim at transforming each individual into a major participant and beneficiary of the process and should not result in creating marginalized and victimized groups.

At the inauguration ceremony of the recent Shenzhen National People’s Congress meeting, government officials and enterprise management personnel had a chance to reflect on this issue. Xu Xiaowen, president of the Chang Yuan Group, said that it is necessary to change the present situation where factory workers are treated like ‘machines by day and wooden blocks by night’, and to increase after-work recreational activities for the workers.

In the author’s view, this is a depiction of the same old marginalized way of life for the second-generation peasant workers. Presently, the second-generation peasants are still ostracized from the urban social security system. They have long been in a precarious position in many aspects like living standards, job opportunities and medical benefits etc. Such precarious position is bound to force them to live spiritually isolated lives from society, and is the cause for their marginalized existence. The second-generation peasants live in isolation, far away from urban dwellers, from normal city life. They are unable to have normal family lives. They are like a bunch of ‘Robinson Crusoes and Fridays’ who have been stranded on a remote island and who live like castaways.

Hidden behind the saying ‘machines by day and wooden blocks by night’ are two horrible revelations. One is that the second-generation peasants are doomed to the destiny of the first generation and from this phenomenon one can perceive the seriousness of social class stratification. The second-generation peasants are excluded from the city’s systems. Although they live within a city, their identities are not recognized by urban society, thus making them neither villagers nor city dwellers and landing them in an awkward position. This gives another marginalized quality to their existence.

The second revelation is that the hereditary gene rooted within the psyches of the marginalized group can lead to a strengthening and inflation of the feelings of deprivation. On the surface, the second-generation peasants have accepted the city way of life, but the city has not extended them an official reception, as the city does not count them in in its policy-making. It has thus caused antagonism in the marginalized group towards the city government. On this second-generation peasant issue, inequalities in the economic, cultural and social aspects are most prominent, as is the contradiction between the city’s acceptance of this group’s economic contribution and its non-acceptance of the group’s social status in the city.

The saying ‘machines by day and wooden blocks by night’ fully reflects the fact that the second-generation peasants’ development right is being ignored. Human beings are the subjects of development process, and development policies should transform each individual into a participant and beneficiary of that process, and should not result in creating marginalized and victimized groups. Hence, ‘machines by day and wooden blocks by night’ is as well a matter of rights. It is only on this ground that one can see clearly the allegory of marginalization. Only from this standpoint can one contemplate the problem of how best to protect the young lives of the second-generation peasants.”