China's Poor Region is based on the author's PhD thesis and has a foreword by Peter Nolan, the distinguished scholar at Cambridge. It is a questionnaire survey plus two-ended interviews of subjects in Shanxi province. It is important to point out that the subjects of the investigation are migrants internal to Shanxi and are mostly male workers at coal mines or construction sites. This is very different from the subjects of the second book reviewed, which deals only with women, but also involves migrants from across China.
After a survey of theories of rural poverty and rural to urban migration, Zhang goes on to describe the poverty in China and discusses the Chinese government policies to tackle rural poverty. In chapters three to five, Zhang describes the methodology and results of a case study of three sampled counties of 200 households. The final chapter is a very brief conclusion which suggests, among other points, that rural migration has played – and will continue to play – a positive role in social development and in resolving rural poverty.
Reading On the Move, the first question that came to my mind was: why women? What are the gender issues that make researching female migration as a separate study worthwhile? The informative introduction chapter not only discusses the aims and rationale of focusing on women, but also contains a brief survey of modern migration in China and brings together a whole range of gender issues to the subject. For example, “Outmigration may provide an important avenue of escape for women suffering gender oppression or violence,” such as the above average rate of suicide among rural women. Women suffer – or suffer more – from the patriarchal authority of parents or in-laws, and migration has an impact on that. One chapter in the book suggests that migrant women make more independent and informed decisions on who to marry and how to spend money. Even for those women who stay at home, having a migrant in the family changes the status of the women in the household as they take up new duties and responsibilities. There are other issues such as the emotional ties between mothers and children, and returned migrant women may also find themselves in a different emotional and social situation from that of the men.