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Freight forwarding with Chinese characteristics

Today I went back to the Chuanshan Freight Market. The waiter who served me lunch at one of the little restaurants in the market turned out to be very knowledgeable about the way the place worked and interested in telling me about it. After I had eaten, he sat down and explained how Chuanshan runs. Here it is, in all its convoluted glory: The Freight Market is made up of long rows of small intermediary companies (xinxibu). These intermediaries establish relationships with factories in the area through social networks and by sending representatives to prospective factories. The waiter told me that in the past factory representatives would come to Chuanshan seeking out intermediaries, but now there are too many intermediaries and not enough shipments so the situation has reversed. In order to establish a formal relationship between the factory and the intermediary, the intermediary must pay a deposit of a few hundred thousand RMB to the factory. This deposit insures any lost goods that result from shipments set up by the intermediary, and represents one of the primary functions of these intermediary companies. The reason that factories work through intermediaries is that they act as insurers as well; they are responsible for paying in full for any goods lost by the truckers to whom they contract loads. In China, the waiter said, factories dont dare contract directly with drivers. Youre a driver, I dont know you, Im afraid youll run away with my goods. Later however, he told me that there are many situations in which drivers build a relationship with factories and then bypass the intermediaries. Whether you are a trucker, a factory, or an intermediary, networks of trust are the most important asset in this industry. Once the deposit is paid, the intermediary is granted access to a factory website which announces the goods it wants to ship. Each factorys website is accessed by a number of different intermediary companies who bid on each shipment. The factory then chooses the lowest bidder, and contracts the load to that intermediary. That intermediary in turn writes the shipment information up on his chalk board at Chuanshan. Interested truckers bid for the load, without knowing how much the shipper is paying the intermediary. The intermediary chooses the lowest bidder and keeps the difference between the truckers bid and their own bid to the company, as well as a 100-200 RMB fee paid to them by the truckers. I had wondered why intermediaries seemed to negotiate so fiercely on behalf of the shippers.

The waiter summarized the situation for me: Its very simple. In the US when two people get married, they court each other directly. Here theres someone in the middle setting the two people up. Its the same with trucking. But the playful metaphor didnt do the system justice, and he added, The money that the factories give the intermediaries is enough. Definitely enough, the waiter told me, Its the money given to the drivers thats not enough. Heres a visual of the system:

I asked him about Chuanhua, and he immediately told me not to even bother going there. Its not good over there. I asked him what the difference was, and he told me that Chuanhua is a private company and Chuanshan is run by the government. I asked him why that mattered. It doesnt, he told me, its just all the drivers know this place. Chuanhua is new. Pretty much every driver knows Chuanshan. They love getting goods here. He continued, Most people here are peasants. They dont want to look at that electronic screen! It goes to fast! Their eyes arent good! Most of the drivers coming to Chuanshan arent locals, they drive between Chengdu and their hometown. Chengdu is a pretty popular point B for people from all over the country, because of the availability of goods and the infrastructure, like Chuanshan, for connecting with factories. But now it has gotten too popular, and most drivers that come here lose money or break even on the return trip because there are too many drivers in Chengdu competing for loads. In the other direction, the waiter told me, business is fine.

Back in their hometowns there are fewer trucks. Each hauls the goods from his own place. But here there are too many. The profits are also seasonal. Sichuan exports a lot of fresh food products to the north during the colder months when things cant grow up there. Sichuan also produces a lot of baijiu, Chinese rice alcohol, which the Chinese say is warming and is therefore more of a winter drink. In the summer, people switch to beer. The profits of truckers coming to Chengdu fluctuate with these trends. The Chuanshan Freight Market is a gift and a curse to drivers. Its a gift because drivers could not operate without this kind of data collection center. Such centers facilitate matching between loads and trucks and attract drivers to Chengdu. At the same time, the structure of Chuanshan and the competitive landscape places the negotiating power in the hands of the intermediaries. Their privileged networks and secret in price negotiations with factories allow them to squeeze the juice out of the market and leave the drivers pretty much dry. One important purpose that they do serve is to provide a type of makeshift insurance to the factories. However, unlike regular insurance agencies which charge based on coverage requirements, these insurers take their cut based on the difference between the factories willingness to pay and the market price in the extremely competitive market for loads. There is an understandably bitter sentiment toward these intermediaries among drivers. They know that they are getting screwed. So why dont they become intermediaries? It seems that a driver would be able to build up the necessary network pretty easily, and would obviously be better off as an intermediary. The waiter told me that he thought about 20-30% of the intermediaries at Chuanshan are ex-drivers. The number is limited because many of the drivers arent locals, so they dont know the area and it can be hard for them to build trusting relationships in the area or acquire the skills needed to go looking for data. Like he said before, many of them are peasants. An entrepreneurial venture requiring computer and business skills isnt so simple, even if it seems they have the resources on hand.
Loading tobacco: a ten person job
Chengdus new urban distribution licensing system: owner-operators excluded

Chengdus new urban distribution licensing system: owneroperators excluded


Chengdu is preparing to implement a new law governing truck distribution within the city limits, a pilot program that the government hopes can be imitated in other provinces as well. Currently, in order to drive within the citys third ring road trucks must have a license purchased yearly from the Traffic Police Department (or pay

illegal dailu guides to use theirs on a per-use basis). The city is rethinking this, because a) having the drivers pay the Traffic Police Department for these licenses only helps the Traffic Police Department and no one else, and b) the Traffic Police are technically limited to issuing a certain number of licenses per year, but in reality have the discretion to issue as many as they want, which they do, causing excessive congestion. The new system will require drivers to apply for the city driving license. The applications will be reviewed based on a set of requirements: the driver must have a good driving record, the truck must be equipped with GPS, and the company must have a warehouse near the city. The performance of each truck will be reviewed each year before the city renews the license It sounds like a big improvement, and it will be in many respects. But the new law completely excludes owner-operator drivers, who rarely have GPS and have no hope of owning a warehouse near the city. One industry professional told me simply that the city cant manage these drivers effectively, so of course they cant be incorporated into the new streamlined system. He told me the city wants those drivers to join companies. I asked what policies are in the works to encourage them to do so and he told me, To be honest, there arent any. This is a good example of how the industry has and will continue to develop: top-down policies which effectively work to streamline the operations of the small segment of trucking done by large, well organized companies. The professional I spoked with showed me a series of drawings of the new city license, a bumper sticker with a cute panda logo, pasted on FedEx and DHL trucks. The policies ignore the owner-operator segment, which this industry professional estimated accounts for 60% of trucking in central and western China (less on the coast). Despite their dominance, it seems the owner operators will continue to be squeezed until they can be incorporated into the part of the system that is recognized as workable by policy makers and industry professionals. For now, policy makers have thrown up their hands and decided to wait it out.

Chinas Exports Perch on Uncertain Truck System

Michael Martina/Reuters

A driver waited for cargo to be loaded onto his truck at a port in Shanghai.

By DAVID BARBOZA Published: April 28, 2011

SHANGHAI For years, Chinas export juggernaut has been fed by highly efficient factories, low-cost labor and a fleet of container ships capable of transporting huge volumes of toys, textiles, electronics and other goods to every corner of the world.

Truckers Protest, Adding to Chinese Fears of Unrest (April 23, 2011)

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Carlos Barria/Reuters

Container trucks near a port in Shanghai. Most freight is moved by independent trucking companies, which have protested high taxes and fuel prices.

But there is a surprisingly weak link in the Made in China chain. Moving those goods from the factory floor to one of Chinas enormous seaports often a drive of less than two hours typically means relying on an independent trucking company. And as vital as trucking is to Chinas mighty export machine, the government seems to be

ignoring the drawbacks of what analysts say is an increasingly disorganized, inefficient and even costly way to transport factory goods to seaports. Truckings tenuous status has been underscored by recent protests and demonstrations by drivers. Last week, in an unusually bold display of public anger, 2,000 truckers went on strike in Shanghai to complain about the rising cost of fuel and unfair government transportation fees. Some protestors hurled rocks, tried to overturn police cars and smashed the windshields of truck drivers who refused to join the strike. The Shanghai municipal government eventually ended the three-day strike by arresting protestors and threatening strike organizers, while also promising to lower some fees that trucking companies must pay to use the roads and seaport. But the challenges that trucking pose to Chinas $1.5 trillion a year in exports are still in place and could become even greater, now that huge factories have begun relocating to poorer, inland regions to save on labor costs. Our concern is that as these factories move away from the coast, the service standards wont keep pace, said Ken Glenn, an executive at APL, a transportation services company. Rail and barge are even less developed. Within China, thousands of small trucking companies, many of them family-owned, compete by promising low-cost delivery. Then they overload their 18-wheelers in dangerous ways, pay bribes to ward off highway inspectors and hope to eke out tiny profits. Now, though, with global oil prices sending the cost of fuel soaring, many truckers say they are heading toward bankruptcy. Were paying a lot more money for fuel than we did three years ago, but what we get paid for freight has stayed the same, said Qi Zhenwei, a truck owner stationed at a dusty trucking depot near one of Shanghais busiest ports. How am I supposed to survive? Mark Millar, a China logistics expert at M Power Associates in Hong Kong, sees Chinese trucking as a seriously fragmented and brutally competitive industry. Most of the drivers are owner-operators, and in order to make money, they carry more cargo than the truck is supposed to hold, Mr. Millar said. This is obviously not a healthy model. Not all trucking in China is such a seat-of-the-pants affair. Some global companies transport goods by truck in sealed shipping containers from factory to dock, sometimes accompanied by security escorts.

But more often, goods destined for export are delivered to seaports by small trucking companies usually hired by logistics firms that bargain to get the lowest possible shipping price. To scrape by, many of the small trucking firms violate the law, pay bribes to avoid heavy fines and transportation restrictions, and even force drivers to sleep in the trucks overnight, sometimes in insecure parking lots. These rigors might seem to contradict the heavy investment in infrastructure and expressways that China has made to make its transportation network more efficient. But many of this countrys modern roadways are expensive toll roads. And the government has placed tough regulations on many aspects of the transportation industry, which analysts say have burdened companies with heavy taxes, insurance and government fees. As a result, transporting goods by truck in China is relatively more expensive than doing so in the United States.
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According to the American Trucking Associations, moving goods by truck in the United States costs about $1.75 per mile. That includes driver salaries, truck leases, insurance, tolls and many other related costs.
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Eric Leleu for The New York Times

A port area in Shanghai's Baoshan district. Moving goods by truck in China is more expensive than it is in the United States.


Truckers Protest, Adding to Chinese Fears of Unrest (April 23, 2011)

By comparison, trucking costs in Chinas two biggest export regions the Yangtze River Delta region near Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta around Hong Kong are $2.50 to $3 a mile. That is despite low pay to Chinese drivers, who might earn only 25 cents an hour, versus about $17 an hour in the United States. Corruption is also a major problem. Chinese truck drivers say highway and port inspectors routinely demand payoffs or bribes. Drivers who refuse to pay may find themselves hit by large fines for even the smallest infraction. (That many of the trucks are overweight makes them ripe for sanctions.) Some regions even operate illegal toll booths.

Rachel Katz, a Fulbright research fellow from the United States who is spending a year in China traveling with long-haul truck drivers, says the drivers are constantly harassed by highway officials. Theres every kind of fine you can imagine, she said in a telephone interview from Chengdu, in southwest China. There are many different people regulating the roads and finding a way to tax the truckers. I cant believe the system operates this way. Ms. Katz recalls one driver telling her: In the U.S., you issue tickets in order to control traffic. In China, we control traffic in order to issue tickets. Truck drivers do not get much sympathy from their clients factory bosses who are also struggling to cope with inflation. With labor and raw material and energy prices soaring here, factories are reluctant to pay higher fees to move goods to the major ports. Besides, many of the factory bosses seem to recognize that there is an oversupply of small trucking companies desperate for cargo. They face a situation of absolutely cutthroat competition, and many of them are not well educated, said Tyrrell Duncan, a transportation director at the Asian Development Bank. There arent programs to train them. Qi Zhenwei, who is 35, and his 31-year-old brother, Qi Erwei, are typical trucking bosses working in Shanghais bustling Baoshan port district. Despite fears of government reprisals, they agreed to talk this week in the rusted metal container that now serves as a lounge at their dusty truck depot, amid engine parts and a bucket filled with cigarette butts. Between phone calls and dashes in and out of the makeshift lounge to talk to colleagues, they told their story. Until about seven years ago, they were peasant farmers struggling to make a living in Henan Province, one of the countrys poorest regions. Neither of them had finished high school. They traveled more than 500 miles east to Shanghai and found work as truck drivers. (I once went 24 consecutive days without sleeping in a bed, Qi Zhenwei said.) Eventually, they earned enough to combine their savings with $100,000 they borrowed from some friends and relatives to buy their own fleet of five new and used Chinese-made trucks. But shortly after they invested in some of their most expensive vehicles, the global financial crisis struck. Exports plummeted, devastating their container hauling business. A year later, in 2009, when Chinas exports began to rebound, so did inflation and fuel prices. And now, the brothers are faced with greater competition from a growing number of small trucking companies.

So far, I didnt make any money, Qi Zhenwei complained. The brothers refused to talk about the recent strike here, saying the government had been visiting all truckers in the area. But they freely discussed their costs: tire fees, insurance, driver salaries, road use fees, oil changes, repairs and even fees that trucks pay to enter the city. If I had a chance to sell the truck, Id get out of the business, the older brother said, dejectedly smoking a cigarette. Id go back to my hometown. Now, people there are planting crops for Chinese medicine. And theyre making good money.

The Fu Brothers and the Freight Transport Market


Two days ago I got a text from a driver whose number I didnt have. He told me he had driven me to Neijiang, a stop on the last leg of my trip back to Chengdu. He texted to say he was in Chengdu waiting for a load, and today I went out to see him. I didnt write much of anything about this pair of drivers in my original post about my final leg to Chengdu. I had been a little annoyed at the time because I thought they said they were going to Chengdu but they were actually stopping before to look for a load, leaving me in a somewhat stranded situation. In my notes I had written: Two drivers from Ningxia, empty truck, going to Chengdu to load but the load isnt set yet. One driver has a limp, the other glazed eyes, both look out of life. The side window of the truck is so dirty I can barely see through it. Were driving through a thick fog thats caught in the valley; feels like stale rain. The drivers were brothers from Ningxia to the north of Chengdu. Ningxia is the smallest province in China, a Hui minority autonomous region. I rode with them for less than an hour, just enough time to have a couple classic conversations. They quickly asked about my relationship status, and when I told them that my boyfriend is American they encouraged me to find a Chinese one. They told me in China people usually dont start dating until they are over 25, and they get married when they are 28-29. That was the most memorable part of the ride because it struck me as quite a restricted dating window. Other than that I didnt remember much. But today the pair was in Chengdu, at a logistics center called the Chuanshan Freight Transport Market, which I had never been to, so I decided to head out to visit them. I rode out on my bike, a straight shot out of the city to the north past the second and the third ring roads (Chengdu, like many Chinese cities, is laid out in rings connected by spokes). It took me about forty minutes to get there by bike, and as I headed out into the industrial suburbs I watched the storefronts change from clothing stores and Wowos (a Chinese version of Seven Eleven) to tire shops and garages full of planks and

buckets of paint. The air turned dusty, noticeably obscuring the blue sky, and more and more creaky tricycle carts crowded the bike lane carrying cardboard boxes or empty paint can stacked ten feet high. There was a lot of activity at the entrance to the Chuanshan Freight Transport Market a cluster of noodle vendors and a row of three-wheeled carts to take drivers around. There were a few salesmen selling fake guns (a phenomenon Ive seen before and really cant understand given the near universal support here of Chinas strict gun laws and condemnation of American-style personal gun obsession. I guess people still think guns look cool), and some selling Tibetan jewelry and leather goods. I bought some noodles and sat down next to a Tibetan woman behind a blanket of goods. I chatted with her and a few other women, who told me they came to Chengdu from Tibet to sell their wares. A crowd of people gathered around me gawking and I tried to ignore it. One of the Tibetan women exclaimed loudly, They should buy tickets to look at you! The next time a man came over and yelled HALLO in my face, she spat back that I was from their hometown. He didnt believe it, but I really appreciated the gesture. After eating I met up with the younger of the two brothers, who I only vaguely recognized. He was shorter than me and boyish in both appearance and demeanor. He had a shy smile that I found addictive. I couldnt believe that I didnt remember it from my ride with him. In my notes I had described him with glazed eyes, but they seemed bright to me today. He bought me iced tea and we went up to the dorm where they were staying. We walked up three flights of concrete stairs, past giant industrial-looking water boilers on each floor to provide residents with potable water. Their room was large but had no space, packed with four beds, a TV, four small desks and two wooden chairs. The beds were arranged in a line: single bed, two singles pushed together, another single. It could serve a couple or up to four individuals. The brothers climbed onto the middle bed and resumed watching a movie on the TV, which was set on a table top propped between two of the desks. Next to it were two dirty plastic hot water canisters and three blue and white China tea mugs, with classic Chinese pagoda-shaped covers, the only aesthetically pleasing items in the room. I sat on one of the side beds. The white walls of the room were unfathomably dirty, particularly by door where there was a large spot of dirt caked on so thickly that no white was visible at all. There was every kind of stain: drips and splatters, prints and smears. The bedding was rolled up and stuffed by the wall exposing the tinged white sheets. We watched the movie, an extremely violent Chinese war film showing a series of machine gun massacres, and talked intermittently.

The brothers, last name Fu, had been there for four days because they couldnt find a load back to Gansu, the province that they usually drive to locaated next to their home province of Ningxia. The older brother told me it costs them over 20 RMB per day to park here, which he thought was expensive but I thought sounded cheap compared with other quotes Ive heard for parking (up to 200 yuan per night in Guangdong). The brothers wore matching cheap navy slacks, a truck driver standard, and bright generic looking polo style shirts. They were unedited in my presence, burping and chatting and watching the movie casually. When the movie was over, I went outside with younger Fu to look for goods. This logistics station was classic: long rows of little hole-in-the-wall companies with chalkboards set outside their storefronts advertising available loads. Crowds of drivers flowed down the rows in circular currents inspecting the load specifications written out in colored chalk. We ambled along with the flow passed dozens of identical cave-like offices. Is this how they do it in the US? Younger Fu asked me. I told him it wasnt. Its pretty backwards here. He said, and then, its really backwards. He told me that ideally they would like to take goods to Ningxia, but Gansu is close enough. After dropping the goods off, they drive their truck home empty to rest before setting off again, and they dont make or lose money. He told me that in recent years the increased competition has made it difficult to find loads to Ningxia, and even loads to Gansu are becoming scarce. All at once, something on a blackboard caught Fus eye, and we ducked into the little office of the Chengdu Swan Freight Transport Company. The companys business card advertised their services: full load and less-than-truckload shipping to everywhere in the country (quanguogedi). The office had ten small desks packed in two tight rows and no windows. There were about fifteen people inside, and it was unclear how many of them worked there. The walls were scarred from posters put up and taken down, covered in maps and advertisements for tires and one six foot poster of a waterfall. We sat on a bench in the back of the office and Fu talked in quick choppy sentences with the boss. There was a glinting golden Buddhist statue tucked up on a shelf in the back corner with a display of incense in front of it. Many phone calls were made, and soon older Fu came down to help out. The couple that ran the office were mature and authoritative and clearly industry experts, negotiating all aspects of the contract. The drivers were especially nervous about one specific point: For some reason this load required that a formal receipt be printed. In China print receipt is often synonymous with pay taxes; when the first happens, the

second happens, and when the first doesnt happen, the second doesnt happen. It was rare for a load to require a receipt. But this one did, and the way it was supposed to work is that the drivers would pay for the receipt (taxes) upon picking up the goods, and would be reimbursed at the drop off. They were nervous that they would get cheated and end up paying the taxes themselves. The bosses of the small company reassured them by informing them that the Chuanshan Fright Transport Market had a department with a specific person whose job it was to protect drivers from that kind of thing, and any grievances could be taken up with him. This seemed to appease the brothers, though I was less than convinced. The boss got back on the phone with the shipper, and started asking about the trucks specifications, which led to a chaotic series of estimates about how many boxes of rice alcohol could fit on the truck. They pulled out a calculator and did some calculations based on the trucks height and width, but it was all very rough around the edges. Carrying a different type of goods each time makes it difficult for drivers to establish patterns or expertise that usually come with experience in an industry and serve to increase efficiency. Here, every load is a completely new project. A man walked in with a t-shirt that said in English: More Respect, Less Astack He started talking with younger Fu in thickly accented Mandarin. They quickly compared loads: type of goods, destination, price. The Chuanshan Freight Transport Market Internal Information Dissemination System. After the shipment was settled, the boss filled out a small receipt, and we left to head over to Chuanhua just down the road. Younger Fu told me that the brothers dont look for goods at Chuanhua because ther truck is relatively small and most of the shipments there are for large trucks. But, it turned out one of the small logistics companies at Chuanhua couldnt find a truck there for this load of rice alcohol, so they had outsourced the job to the little company at the Freight Transport Market. Even though the brothers didnt have to pay the second intermediary, they did have to go to Chuanhua to get the receipt signed by the boss of the original company, a 20 RMB round trip on a three wheeled cart which younger Fu told me would take about a half an hour. As we walked to catch a cart to Chuanhua, I noted the severity of older Fus limp. He walked slowly and extremely lopsided. He held onto younger Fus shoulder, and younger Fu stroked the back of his head affectionately once and awhile as they walked. At one point older Fu tripped and fell into younger Fus shoulder, and they both looked

at each other and laughed. In the cart on the way there, the physical affection continued. They made faces at each other, and younger Fu played with older Fus wrist and pretended to snatch his nose. At one point younger Fu picked up his brothers lame leg playfully as the cart went over a big bump. He turned to me: His leg isnt like other peoples! He said. I acknowledged the truth of the statement, nervously. Last time when I was driving the truck, you couldnt tell, right?! Older Fu replied proudly. Younger Fu playfully pretended to toss the contract out the door of the cart. Then dutifully put it in his pocket. Hes the boss, Im the employee! He said. His brother shook his head, but younger Fu continued with that wonderful shy smile, Whatever he says, I do! When we got to Chuanhua, younger Fu and I sat in the cart in the familiar front parking lot while his brother went in to get the contract signed. I think your attitude is better in the US he told me, There, you enjoy and make money at the same time. Here we make money and then enjoy. For example, you take out loans and buy things and pay it back little by little. We earn a lifetime of money and then were fifty, and then what can we enjoy? You earn money and enjoy at the same time, thats better. After a little while older Fu hadnt come back, so we went in to look for him. We walked through the spacious main hall, almost deserted in the mid-afternoon, a big empty red stage set up along the back wall from some promotional event. This place is a little better, Fu said, comparing with the Freight Transport Market. He told me that all the intermediary companies from the Freight Market were supposed to move to Chuanhua, but only a few of them had. It certainly seemed to make sense for them to move: there were rows of empty offices at Chuanhua with windows and desks and white walls just waiting for the mess down the street to come fill them. I asked why more hadnt moved yet. That I cant really say, Fu said, people are more used to it over there. Windows and white walls can only go so far.

We walked down a long hall of offices and Fu noted that the people in these offices make a lot of money. You can make a lot of money in logistics. These people can. We make the least. We arrived at a pristinely tacky third floor office with only one thing on the wall, coincidentally, a poster of a waterfall. Older Fu was sitting on a cushioned bench looking slightly defeated. Younger Fu joined an ongoing debate. The shipper had said originally that they had some certain amount of goods to ship but they actually had more. Younger Fu told me they underreported it to find a smaller, cheaper truck, and then wanted to overload the vehicle. The brothers wouldnt overload, and after lots of negotiation they agreed that the truck would be loaded to capacity, not above, and the shipper would pay 4900 RMB for the load. The whole thing took about an hour and a half, consistent with the multiply their time estimate by three rule that I use on the road. We headed back to Chuanhua and I bid them farewell after they reassured me that they would call next time they were in Chengdu. I hope they do, I really liked hanging out with these guys.


On the way home I saw a row of men and women holding signs that read dailu, lead the way. These are the people who I had read about in a China Daily article who lead trucks on back roads to avoid fines. I stopped and talked to a frail man crouched on the curb with his sign flopping lazily in his hand at trucks passing on the road into the city. I asked him about his job, and he told me he leads trucks around who dont know the way. I asked if he helps them avoid tolls and fines, and he said no, he just helps them find their destinations. They dont know the way! he kept repeating when I pushed the issue. Finally I told him I had read an article that said that dailu help truckers avoid traffic police, and he tentatively agreed that, yes, they also do that. I asked if he thought this was good work, using the word gongzuo which translates as job. Instead of answering the question, he fixated on the word choice. This is not gongzuo, a job. The way you would say itthe way you Americans would say itthis is dagong. Dagong also means work, but with the connotation of manual labor. This wasnt a job, he was telling me, this was manual labor. That pretty much

answered my question. He makes 30-50 RMB per truck that he leads, and leads at most 3 trucks per day. Most of the day is just spent sitting. This is perhaps the least demanding and least lucrative work that Ive encountered in the assortment of jobs that have sprung up to support Chinas trucking industry.

Shehong Nanbu Chengdu: Zhang trip part 3

A version of this article appeared in print on April 29, 2011, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Weak Link

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