But the area was hit hard by the pandemic. When Kangle experienced a wave of infections last October, tough measures were imposed. The workshops shut down for months. Thousands of migrants were put into centralized quarantine, then pressured to leave the city. Now, the virus-control measures are gone, and the streets of Kangle are crowded once again. Yet businesses are still struggling. Factory owners complain of rising costs, sluggish sales, and mounting debts. But the workshops’ biggest problem right now is a chronic lack of staff: Migrants are simply no longer willing to take the jobs on offer.
It’s unclear to what extent factories in other industries are experiencing the same issues. China’s manufacturing sector as a whole has made a solid recovery this year, with an industry survey finding that factory activity was expanding strongly in February.