Young and Restless in China

FEATURED LESSON PLAN: Pushing And Pulling Migrant Workers In China


Lesson Objectives:

    Students will:

  • Understand the "push" and "pull" factors behind China's internal migration
  • Evaluate the impact of 150-200 million migrant workers on modern China
  • Examine a migrant worker's dilemma and role play on her behalf


Materials Needed:


Time Needed:

  • Approx. 10-15 minutes - Images Without Sound
  • Approx. 20-30 minutes - "Factories Without Smoke"
  • Approx. 40-60 minutes - Should I Stay Or Should I Go?



Step 1: Opening the Lesson - Images Without Sound

This activity can be conducted as a pre-viewing activity/discussion or in lieu of or in addition to watching the entire documentary.

  • Ask the students how they would visualize young people (people in their 20s and 30s) in China. Jot down their comments on the chalkboard.
  • Play the opening scene of Young & Restless in China with NO VOLUME (up until 4:02, Lu Dong jogging).
  • Have students jot down elements from this short clip that could be familiar to them. If time permits, play the clip a second time to allow students to complete this exercise. Pose the following questions:
    • What images can be just as easily viewed in students' home communities as they are depicted in this documentary set in China? Have students defend their observations.
    • What are distinctly "Chinese" elements in this short clip? Again, have students defend their observations.
    • Have students decide whether this clip is more foreign or familiar to them.
    • Have students propose what they think this documentary will be about.



Review students' responses for clarity.


Step 2: "Factories Without Smoke"

  • Distribute copies of the CNN article Migrants Are China's "Factories Without Smoke" or have students access the article online. (This article can also be assigned for homework reading the previous night.)
  • Distribute copies of the Student Handout: Clearing The Smoke: Understanding China's Internal Migrations. In groups of three, students will discuss the significant details of the article as they collaborate on completing the handout.
  • After the students have finished their discussions and worked on the handout, reconvene as a large group. Invite students to share their responses to the final question below. Encourage students to support or challenge their classmates' views.
      In the final analysis, are the 150-200 million internal migrants a positive or negative phenomenon for:
    • China?
    • the workers themselves?
       Defend your position.
  • Invite students to draw connections between China's current experience and other moments in global or United States history where societies have experienced similar waves of internal migration. Challenge students to reevaluate their critique based on historical precedents.


Methods for assessment

  • Quality of student participation during class and group discussions
  • Completion of Clearing The Smoke: Understanding China's Internal Migrations


Step 3: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

  • Students will watch a clip from Young & Restless in China. The relevant segment is Chapter 2, from 1:21 to 5:57, beginning with scenes of present-day Tiananmen Square and finishing with Wei Zhanyan bringing clothes in from drying outside.
  • After the clip finishes, lead the class through a discussion as the students reflect on what they watched. This can either be conducted in a large group or the following questions can be distributed for small group discussions.
    • What do you think are important parts of Wei Zhanyan's biography to help understand her character? Why are these factors relevant?
    • What does Wei Zhanyan like about her new life?
    • What do you think bothers Wei Zhanyan about her new life?
  • Students will watch one more clip from Young & Restless in China. The relevant segment runs from the beginning of Chaper 5 to 6:04.    Again, conduct a discussion, using the following questions.
    • What are some notable differences between Wei Zhanyan's life in Beijing and her life in her father's home?
    • Consider each person's concerns about getting married or breaking off the engagement:
      • Wei Zhanyan
      • Wei Zhanyan's father and brother
      • Wei Zhanyan's fiance
    • What was it like watching the scene between Wei Zhanyan and her fiance? How did it make you, the viewer, feel?
  • In groups of two or three, students will develop a dialogue between Wei Zhanyan and her father and brother where they discuss and debate whether she should remain engaged and get married or break off the engagement.
    • Students can write a series of letters (a minimum of four representing two exchanges)
    • Students can write a scene (a minimum of three pages)
       Students must try to represent the characters of Wei Zhanyan, her father and her brother as they were depicted in the documentary. Students can also pursue an additional option of developing a dialogue between Wei Zhanyan and her fiance. Encourage students to consider the economic and social implications of Wei Zhanyan both returning to her hometown and getting married and breaking off the engagement and staying in Beijing.
  • If time permits, invite a few groups to perform their scenes or read their letters. Hold a brief discussion about what were the compelling issues they considered when depicting Wei Zhanyan and her family's views on the issue of marriage and duty.
  • DO NOT REVEAL THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION UNTIL THE END OF THE LESSON: At the conclusion of the activity share with the students that with her father's eventual blessing, Wei Zhan broke off her engagement. She also met another migrant worker in Beijing and at the time of the documentary's taping, they were pursuing a romantic relationship. Hold an informal debate about whether breaking off the engagement was the right decision for her to make.
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