In an industrial corner of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, tucked among auto repair shops and construction materials warehouses, lies a large compound of dormitories. Spray-painted on the side of the walls are arrows indicating where the residents, mostly Chinese, are to be picked up — around six o’clock in the morning, Sunday through Friday — and transported to their respective work sites across the country. Around seven in the evening, the site comes alive again with waves of returning workers, their clothes dirtied and skins darkened from toil in the harsh Middle East sun.
Chinese migrant workers have driven China’s unprecedented economic miracle and subsequent rise as a world power, and represent one of the foundations of China’s rapid industrialization. But while 250 million Chinese have migrated into urban areas domestically, hundreds of thousands more have gone abroad, seeking new opportunities even farther from home. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, 992,000 Chinese workers were working overseas as of the end of last year.