Handle with Care: Representing Chinese Factory Workers

Penny Wang | June 11, 2018
Stories about the miseries of Chinese factory workers have been regarded in the West as welcome gestures against the dehumanising globalised market economy to which China has submitted itself. These expository accounts have been applauded as signs of critical reflections against the silence imposed by the Chinese government—a government the Western media label as authoritarian and indifferent to the lower-income populations victimised by its profit-oriented policies. Much as I appreciate the necessity of such exposés, either through reports or slightly fictionalised accounts, I usually find these narratives deeply problematic. Taking an event I recently attended as an example—a screening of the short film Before Christmas directed by Chuyao He on 11 May at Edinburgh Printmakers (part of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival), I would like to examine exactly what is wrong with these representations.

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