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China’s development moved from a period of “wealth creation” that benefited the majority of the population to a period of “wealth concentration” that benefited a minority in the late 1990s. The consequent social displacement and tensions are clearly discernible, as epitomized by laid-off urban workers, landless peasants, and badly exploited migrants. Social welfare in China has so far not readdressed socioeconomic inequalities, and the market has certainly not been re-embedded into social institutions. The market remains poorly regulated and the state remains authoritarian. On the one hand, people are deeply skeptical about local governments and do not hesitate to violate rules in seeking self-interest; on the other hand, people see interventions from higher levels of the state, especially the center, as the ultimate solution to their problems. The chapter seeks to examine such a structural feature through a detailed ethnographic study of a relatively minor “event.” The protagonists of the event are a group of unskilled workers in Liaoning Province, Northeast China, who are enterprising, risk taking, legally savvy, and financially shrewd. They paid a large amount of money to a private agent for jobs in South Korea but were swindled. In response, the victims took on the local government, instead of the private agent, as their primary target on the ground that government corruption caused the agent’s wrongdoing.

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