China has been making news due to its powerful
economic growth. The other side of this story, however, is to be found
in the terrible conditions and low pay that many of its workers have to
suffer. Here is one example of a milkman.
On Saturday (31/7), it was officially announced that China is now
the new No.2 economy in the world in terms of absolute GDP figures. The
announcement comes as no surprise. In 2009 China was already close to
surpassing Japan. If it were to continue at the present pace – a big if
‑ it could even take over the US sometime around 2025 according to the
projections by the World Bank, Goldman Sachs, and others.
However, on the same of day of this earth-shattering announcement
that has caught the attention of people around the world, some marvel
and others worry. A Shanghai milkman, Jin Yousheng, has no time to
follow this news as he has 300-plus bottles to deliver everyday.
Earning 0.2 yuan every bottle, he takes home 2000 yuan a month to
support his unemployed wife and two daughters.
So when he cut his right foot on a piece of glass during his daily
milk trip, bleeding profusely, he refused to go to the hospital and
insisted on completing his route. This “sense of sacrifice” was not
because of any “sense of duty” to make sure that all the workers get
their daily milk before going out to work and “build socialism”, or
that every child doesn’t miss out on their daily nourishment. No. This
simple man merely said “I can’t go to the hospital, the customers will
report it to my boss.” Milk has to be delivered because a milkman
stands to lose 10 yuan ($1.5) for every complaint sent to his boss.
Like a battle-weary soldier, he ripped off his underwear and used it
to wrap his bleeding foot, and continued marching on to complete his
mission, a bottle of milk at a time, leaving a trail of blood from one
apartment to the other. He kept on until he could hardly breathe
anymore due to blood loss. He was finally admitted to the hospital.
The benevolent milk company, Shanghai-based Bright Dairy, expressed
their heart-felt concern, asking the residents to be nicer to the
milkmen and not threaten to report them for trivial matters. “The
milkmen are serving thousands of households, they may be low paid, but
they are not doing an insignificant job,” said Zhang, the company’s
Jin, a native from Jiangsu province, might feel better knowing that
he is doing an important job, a not “insignificant job”. But he is not.
Mere words and phrases do not change the fact that he, with thousands
of others milkmen, is low paid. Words of how important one’s job is
don’t put a bowl of rice on the table.
Suddenly, the significance of China’s ascendancy to the position of
second largest economy in the world, and projected to be the first by
2025, is dwarfed by this tabloid-style story of a simple worker, who
will most likely be forgotten the next day. Marx said that capitalism
was born “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and
dirt.” Jin too has spilled his share of blood in helping the advance of