The increasing labor migration from China to other Asian countries since the late 1980s is often attributed to the ascendance of the free market that has driven China’s internal transformation as well as the Asian regionalization. The actual process of the labor migration is however tightly constrained. Migrants are extracted from their hometowns and inserted in a foreign workplace with great precision, and they are obliged to return home once the job contract expires. The movement thus assumes the form of “labor transplant.” Unlike project-based labor deployment that is collectively organized, labor transplant is individualized and it seeks to follow, monitor, and control particular individuals’ specific journeys. This mode of migration emerged in response to the structural contradiction between upward concentration of capital and downward outsource of labor management in the international economy, and the related tension between the fragmentation of labor management and the continuing centralized regulation of migration. The central players in labor transplant are multiple intermediaries in China and the receiving countries, including public institutions, commercial recruitment companies and individual go-betweens, who collaborate with each other transnationally.
Biao Xiang; Labor Transplant: “Point-to-Point” Transnational Labor Migration in East Asia. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2012; 111 (4): 721–739. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1724156
Download citation file: