18     The Consequences of Modernization                  


Primary Resources 


Document 18.1


Slide show “Contemporary China: A Study in Contrasts,” with photographs taken in China, 2004–2012

Document 18.2

Four excerpts of individual stories from the “new China,” 2005–2006


Document 18.3


Stories of their families written by the children of migrant workers living and working in Beijing, 2007

Document 18.4

Excerpt from “Bridge over the Digital Divide” by Rong Jiaojiao in China Daily, June 2006

Document 18.5

Excerpt from “Too Big, Too Fast” by Feng Jianhua in Beijing Review, October 27, 2005

Document 18.6

“Bigger Net, Better Net” by Yin Pumin in Beijing Review, February 1, 2012

Document 18.7

Excerpt from “The Price of Health” by Tan Wei in Beijing Review, February 2, 2006

Document 18.8

Excerpt from “Holiday Season” by Zhang Zhiping in Beijing Review, January 26, 2006

Document 18.9

Excerpt from “Still Brewing” by Lu Ling in Beijing Review, January 19, 2006

Document 18.10

Excerpt from “Quick, Pass Me A Burger!” by Tang Yuankai in Beijing Review, April 14, 2005


Document 18.11


Excerpts from “Should a Lack of Filial Piety Be Penalized?” a Forum article in Beijing Review, February 23, 2006

Document 18.12

“Wedding Bells?” by Lu Lin, Beijing Review, May 18, 2006

Document 18.13

“Governing Gender” by Lan Xinzhen in Beijing Review, March 23, 2006

Document 18.14

“Earning Their Keep” by Yuan Yuan in Beijing Review, May 16, 2011




Supplementary Resources 


Item 18.A

Questions for Activity 3, Documents 18.4–18.7

Item 18.B

Questions for Activity 5, Documents 18.8–18.10

Item 18.C

Questions for Activity 6, Documents 18.11–18.13



A Closer Look


A Pedicab in Suzhou



Activity Websites


Preliminary Activities

The "Big Mac Index"


Activity 1

"The Great Divide"



Suggested Resources 




Chang, Leslie T. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2008.

Examines the lives of female migrant factory workers in China, focusing on the experiences of two young women and including the author's story of her family's migration within China and to the West.


Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao. Will the Boat Sink the Water? The Life of China’s Peasants. New York: Public Affairs, 2006.

A one-sided portrayal of the plight of Chinese farmers. In particular, it focuses on their lack of legal recourse when trying to fight local corruption. In the process, it sheds some light on contemporary village life.


Florini, Ann, Hairong Lai, and Yeling Tan. China Experiments: From Local Innovations to National Reform. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2012.

This publication explores political reform and changes in governance at the local level in China and what implications these reforms could have for the country.


Gifford, Rob. China Road: Journey into the Future of a Rising Power. New York: Random House, 2007.

Journalist Rob Gifford travels Chinese Route 312 from Shanghai to the border of Kazakhstan where the social and economic changes in the country are apparent all along the 3,000-mile route.


Hessler, Peter. Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory. New York: Harper, 2010.

A narrative account of how the development and diffusion of cars and roads have changed China.


Hessler, Peter. Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

Chapters 2, 4, 7, 11, 17, and 22 will be of interest to readers wishing to learn about the lives of young Chinese adults in the new economy.


Watts, Jonathan. When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind—Or Destroy It. New York: Scribner, 2010.

An exploration of China’s struggles with environmental issues and sustainability amid economic growth.




“All for One: Tracking the Course of China’s ‘Perfect’ Generation,” Usable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Vanessa Fong’s research about the one-child policy and its consequences is presented.


Beijing Review

The Beijing Review website provides up-to-date news and analysis on both national and international news. It is helpful for anyone interested in the increasing role that China is playing in global affairs.


The China Beat

A blog written from 2008–2012 about contemporary China. Based at the University of California, Irvine, blog contributors from the United States, China, Australia, Japan, Canada, and other countries provided context for and observations about events in China.


China Daily

An English language daily newspaper published in China.


“China in the Year 2020: Three Political Scenarios” by Cheng Li

An article from Asia Policy from the Brookings Institution.



A website that tracks and analyzes Chinese state, commercial, and social media.


Moral Landscape in a Sichuan Mountain Village

The Xiakou Village website hosted at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is a work in progress. It explores the history, beliefs, folklife, and economy of a village in western Sichuan Province through long essays, images, videos, and audio resources.


“One and Only,” Ed., The Magazine of Harvard Graduate School of Education

An article asking “Now that the first generation under the one-child policy has come of age, was modernization worth the price?”




China Blue (88 mins; 2005)

A powerful documentary that captures the lives of teen girls working in a Chinese factory that produces denim jeans. The film provides another perspective on what China’s involvement in the global economy means to one segment of the population and the role Western corporations and consumers play.


China from the Inside (3-hour, 4-part series; 2007)

This PBS documentary includes the episodes “Power and the People,” “Women of the Country,” “Shifting Nature,” and “Freedom and Justice.”


China Revealed (102 mins; 2006)

A Discovery Atlas documentary that explores where tradition meets modernity in China today.


China Rises (208 mins; 2006)

This Discovery Times documentary looks at the monumental changes unfolding in the People’s Republic of China. Video excerpts and interviews are available on the companion website at http://www.nytimes.com/specials/chinarises/intro/index.html.


To Have and Have Not: Wealth and Poverty in the New China (56 mins; 2002)

The dichotomy between rich and poor is explored in this documentary from PBS’s Wide Angle. Living conditions of migrant workers are juxtaposed against the new wealth in China’s cities, displaying economic disparities in China’s economic boom.


Up the Yangtze (93 mins; 2008)

As the Three Gorges Dam is completed, families living along the Yangtze River are affected in various ways. This film documents the struggles of one family as their daughter takes a job on one of the Yangtze River “Farewell Cruises” and the family is forced to leave their home for higher ground. 



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