America worries about the rise of China. We’re always hearing how their GDP is over 9%, that they have high speed rails, industrious people and a bright future. We fear they are taking our jobs and will soon dominate the world stage.
I tend to think that China will suffer a collapse of some sort. The country is so big, with so many people, that it can’t sustain its growth. After seeing Lixin Fan’s documentary film, “Last Train Home,” my feelings are validated.
The movie is about one family, the Zhangs. They lived in the village of Huilong in Sichuan province working as farmers. The couple heard the call of the big city with its promise of money and future, left their one year old daughter and took a job in Guangzhou. There they have labored for 16 years in conditions no American would tolerate. They sew in a grim factory, eat a bowl of rice with a little vegetable and share sleeping quarters with other workers.
Only one time a year do they get a break: Chinese New Year. Then, like 130 million other Chinese migrant workers, they take a train home. It has been called the largest human migration on the planet. The Zhangs, with millions of others, crowd the train stations, trying to get a ticket and waiting as many as five days for a train. Then, the family has to take a bus then a ferry before being reunited with their parents, daughter and son. Filmmaker Fan follows this odyssey for several years.
At home, the children are resentful that their parents have left them in the hands of their grandparents. The 17-year-old daughter confesses she has no feelings for her parents. The parents, in turn are devastated by her attitude.
In light of the recent Occupy Wall Street nonsense, it is an interesting contrast. Our youth feel our system has failed and want change. However, the change they think they want could end up placing us in a society very similar to the Zhangs’.
It’s not a pretty one. The movie is an hour and a half and worth watching. You can see it via Netflix.