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In the past ten years, European Wenzhou people have been reported by Western media. Some media think Wenzhou people are very powerful. British “The Economist” reporter James Miles has been following Wenzhou people for many years. In the middle of last year, he invited me to participate in his project of interviewing Wenzhou people in Paris and Prato, Italy.The interview reported“Immigration from a Small Corner of China Achieves Great Abroad”Published on Christmas Eve in 2022, the “small corner” refers to Wenzhou, and the “big achievement” refers to the fact that Wenzhou Chinese occupy the entire chain of the European garment industry (from production to sales).
McGeeth may be the UK’s longest-serving reporter in China. He has been stationed in China for more than 20 years. He is deeply impressed by the prosperity of Wenzhou people in Beijing. After interviewing in Wenzhou and Shanghai in 2005, he wrote a special Christmas report for Wenzhou people“Family Values: A Case Study in Entrepreneurship”。
This time in Paris and Prato, we interviewed more than ten people. The first-generation immigrant interviewees represent different positions of Wenzhou immigrants in this industry chain, including workers, garment factory owners, and businessmen who have successfully transformed from the garment industry into mainstream industries in France or Italy. Second-generation immigrants have left the garment industry to practice law or enter politics. At the same time, we also interviewed scholars from the two countries studying Wenzhou immigration. In Prato, we also interviewed local parliamentarians and ministers who manage immigration. In terms of religion, I visited two Wenzhou-dominated Christian churches in Paris, and Prato went to a Wenzhou-based Buddhist church. We also went to see the farmland of Wenzhou immigrants in Prato, because the division of labor of Wenzhou people there has been subdivided to support Wenzhou farmers.
I didn’t know much about Wenzhou people before. I only heard that they are “Oriental Jews” and they are very good at doing business. But maybe because I grew up in Guangdong, where the immigrants who achieved success overseas were from Kaiping, and the industry that achieved success was the catering industry (for example, Tan Ronghui is a descendant of Kaiping immigrants); after moving to the UK in 2004, the successful Chinese immigrants here are Hong Kong immigrants and Their descendants, Wenzhou people are only scattered; therefore, when I accepted the invitation of Majestic to participate in this interview and survey, I initially felt that it was difficult for him to pay so much attention to Wenzhou people and spend a week in Europe for interviews.
Majess wrote in the report: “In 1989, there were only 38 ethnic Chinese living there (Prato). Now there are about 35,000 people, and there are thousands more in Florence, the nearby regional capital. Most of them are from Wenzhou. “During the three days of interviews in Prato, Italy, the hotel I stayed in was located in the territory of Wenzhou people a few miles away. The owner of the hotel was a Wenzhou couple, surrounded by various garment factories and huge exhibitions run by Wenzhou people Halls, restaurants, etc., basically no Italians. Prato is the core area of the Italian garment industry and the source of the European garment industry. I just woke up from a dream and remembered that many of the Italian fashions that were famous in China in the past were “Made in Wenzhou, Italy”, referred to as “Italy”. manufacture”.
This interview is like a sister edition of Wenzhou People’s Report in 2005, reporting on the continued success of Wenzhou immigrants in Europe thousands of miles away. The target of the interview is very clear, “Wenzhou people engaged in the garment industry in Paris and Prato”, regardless of workers, managers, or bosses. Because in the entire European clothing chain, the general division of labor is: Prato is mainly responsible for production (a large number of factories and showrooms), and Wenzhou people in Paris are responsible for sales (the largest clothing wholesale sales center in Europe). When I took over this matter, I never thought that it would be so complicated. I conducted three rounds of searching before finally identifying the interviewee. Because the contact was good in the first two rounds, they all declined politely in the end, and they couldn’t ask the reason.
I guess they are worried about their former “smuggling and illegal immigration” status, because it is illegal immigrants who are willing to charge cheap wages, giving Wenzhou people an absolute advantage in terms of prices, and eventually replacing Italian bosses. The Italian boss was also happy to transfer the dirty and tiring work and turned into a landlord.
Perhaps they also worry that the British media will judge them by British human rights values. During the interview, I heard that the Italian media accused the Wenzhou family of living in a crowded hut for failing to protect their family’s human rights. Wenzhou people feel extremely wronged.
Many people in Wenzhou I contacted did not know what The Economist was. The collective reaction was: If it is an interview by the Chinese media, it is not mentioned, and it is definitely welcome. Why did this British media want to interview us?
I forwarded McGeeth’s reply to them: “This is a report on how Wenzhou people have contributed to the economic development of various parts of Europe for decades. This is not an assessment of China’s role in Europe, but very specific About Wenzhou and Wenzhou people – why do people from this city (and not other Chinese cities) become such successful entrepreneurs in Europe? How do these Wenzhou businesses connect with each other across Europe? How do they connect with businesses in Wenzhou? What do they think of Wenzhou culture What was special about this? How did these European connections contribute to the development of Wenzhou itself? This work will depend on the personal stories of Wenzhou people in Europe. This means telling how they got to Europe – but it is never The point of the story. The point is to tell a cultural, historical and commercial story, bringing it to life with a lot of personal detail.”
After I read the full report of Majestic, I confirmed that the concerns of those Wenzhou people who refused to be interviewed were unfounded. The full text is similar to a field report, showing the migration path of Wenzhou people from China to Europe, the reasons for their success, their future development, and their struggle for equality and dignity in Europe. The full text does not make any value judgments on illegal immigrants, nor does it mention the term human rights. Most of the terms used are neutral or even commendatory.
For example, when talking about the relationship between Wenzhou people and the garment industry in Prato, Italy, Majestic used the word “rescue”. He reported: “The thousands of Wenzhouese who poured into Prato at that time followed an earlier wave of immigrants. They were mainly poor Italians from the south of the country because the city’s textile businesses needed cheap Labor. The influx of these people caused Prato’s population to explode, but by the 1980s, the supply of these laborers was exhausted. The Chinese began to compete for most of Prato’s small-scale businesses, which specialized in clothing companies Subcontracting jobs for cutting and sewing materials. Wenzhou people fill a desperate need: They are willing to work hard for low wages. They save a dying industry.”
Rising human rights standards in Europe have led to rising labor costs, making it difficult for factories to continue in Europe. If there were these Wenzhou immigrants in Britain in the 1980s, perhaps they could have saved British industry instead of moving all to Asia and China.
Explaining the path from immigrant to European fad, Majess reports: “Soon they start moving up the value ladder, first taking over the small companies they work in, and then the whole production chain. They are in Pronto moda (Fast fashion) has formed a new expertise. China (Mainland) can also manufacture clothes quickly, but it may take weeks to ship clothes to Western markets. Prato’s Wenzhou enterprises can not only produce quickly, but also respond to changing trends A lightning-fast response would also ensure prompt delivery to wholesalers in Europe. In addition, these businesses would have the coveted ‘Made in Italy’ label. By the mid-2000s, Prato had thousands of Chinese Clothing companies, making the city the largest fast fashion center in Europe. Some companies also work for famous global brands. Under the guidance of the Chinese, the centuries-old tradition of textile work in Prato has been set on a new track .”
Fact checks are still new to Chinese state media. The Chinese state media is the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China. News reports only need to conform to the spirit and line of the party. As for whether it conforms to the facts, it is not the most important concern of the Chinese state media. Fact checks for the above sections of this article have been reviewed by McGeeth. The following sections show the level differences between me and Majestic as 1.5-generation immigrants, as well as different entry points from the perspective of values.
The opening paragraph of Majestic’s report answered what I mentioned in “Talking about China with Majestic” – “Speaking of this week’s interview, Majestic said that he has not yet found the ‘colour’ to write an interview article” . What is this color (here must not be understood as color)?
As for why Majestic chose the story of the interviewee Wang Rui (a second-generation immigrant from Wenzhou, a member of the Paris district council) as the full-text Colour, my interpretation is not the same as Majeice’s original intention. Most of The Economist’s target readers will not disagree with Majestic’s original intention, but not all Chinese readers can understand and appreciate his use of this color.
What is colour? I’m still figuring it out. The news in the UK welcomes colour. I started writing opinion articles for the South China Morning Post last year, and the editor-in-chief also said that I am welcome to use the colour technique. And the news reports I learned in China are “news expresses content with facts and figures, without using adjectives, emotions, and value judgments.” I used to think that “expressions with emotions are not news, but literature.” . Therefore, what is often read in the Chinese news is only numbers and plain expressions, without emotion.
Majestic corrected my understanding of colour, and he replied to me in the email: “To say something is ‘tragic’ (an adjective with emotions), not colour. To say something is an abuse of human rights (with value judgments) description) is not colour. Colour is factual. It engages the reader by using visual descriptions and/or personal testimonies in a way that makes the story feel more personal, immediate and relatable to someone unfamiliar with the subject matter. Please Look at this week’s Economist China story on COVID-19 – it begins with a description of a hospital in Dezhou City. The author expresses no emotion or uses adjectives that imply the author’s feelings. It’s just a scene, like TV A scene that the camera might capture. The aim is to captivate the reader with something that anyone can immediately relate to.”
This correction made me a clear distinction between describing facts and adding personal emotions and judgment words, and further eliminated the misunderstanding of colour.
In order to “captivate the reader with something that anyone can immediately associate”, the color Majess uses at the beginning of this report is the story of the interviewee Wang Rui in Paris: “When his parents left him, Wang Rui was too young , don’t remember them. When he was two years old, his mother started a new life in Europe. A year later, his father followed her to Europe too. In the countryside around the Chinese coastal city of Wenzhou, people like them Young people are doing the same thing in droves – abandoning their towns and villages, and often their children, to pursue a dream. Why, when you can make more money in sweatshops in France or Italy? Still trying to make ends meet in Wenzhou? Since so many people have already left, why stay?”