The Chinese textile city of Zhili has more than 18,000 garment workplaces. In these modestly sized private businesses, a total of around 300,000 workers produce vast quantities of children’s clothing. Kilometers of fabric are processed at an astonishing rate, because piecework incentivizes speedy production. Once the daily quota have been met, the dormitories are right next door.
Between 2014 and 2019, Wang Bing traveled through Zhili to portray everyday life in a variety of workplaces. He picks out the young migrant workers he follows closely from the crowd by giving them names and numbers.
In three and a half hours of long observational shots, he makes their reality palpable. Their lives are not only dictated by monotonous workdays and hierarchical labor relations—above all, they are very young, hormonally driven, and inseparable from their phones. The workplace is also the venue for their teasing, playing, flirting, gossiping and arguing. It is where their relationships are created and broken up, and where they are busy shaping their future.