Xiao Wei, Cao Cao, Fang Fang, Xiang Xiang, Yulan and Zuguo are 20-year-old Chinese people from the agricultural provinces of central China. As garment workers, they work tirelessly to one day be able to set up their own workshop, buy a house, and raise a child. Friendships and romantic relationships between them blossom with the seasons, and fall apart with the stress of bankruptcies and family pressures.
Zhilizhen (literally “weaving village”), the land of opportunities for migrants from the rural provinces of western China, is located in the Zhejiang Province, two hour’s drive from Shanghai. The city is located south of the Tai Hu Lake, early home of Chinese literature. Zhilizhen is the largest children garment manufacturing centre in the continent. Every year, hundreds of millions of pieces of clothing are produced there, and the turnover amounts to ten billion Euros a year.
The population has practically doubled since 2005 and totals about 300 000 inhabitants today. But only 100 000 people, from Zhilizhen, are considered to be local and have the right of residence. A minority of them owns the lands, the workshop premises, the dwellings, and they live off rental income. The others are migrants who, for the most part, have left agricultural regions to work in the textile industry. Some, who arrived more than ten years ago, now run their own workshops. A few have even made a fortune, but many others have gone bankrupt. The staff turnover is constant, including among the bosses.