Chinese women redraw the social map

No longer bound by ancient village ties, urbanization has unleashed a new generation of Chinese women. For some, it means a Western haircut and a degree from an elite technical college. For others, it means a chance to forage in the city garbage hea

Tish Durkin

If you want to feel like the weakest, laziest, most mollycoddled slacker ever to draw breath, come to China and hire someone.

Upon my arrival here in Dalian, a northeastern city of some 6 million people, my first order of business was to hire an interpreter. I interviewed several candidates who all left me feeling like a couch potato at a triathlon. All were young, rural-born women who had gotten big-city university degrees, and thus were by definition models of motivation. One applicant, in fact, had been the only student from her area to be accepted in her graduating year at Tsingshua University, the MIT of China. She had, she explained, attended a top secondary school—seven days a week, starting at 6:45 a.m., riding a bicycle an hour each way. Clearly, unlike their prospective employer, these were not people who had grown up on a steady diet of Barbie, Love Boat, and Mademoiselle.

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