The Accidental Capitalist: A People’s Story of the New China


The Accidental Capitalist: A Peoples Story of the New China

In the last three decades China has experienced the largest population movement in human history. Millions have left behind homes to find work and new opportunities in the emerging mega-cities.

Through months of sustained interpersonal contact with migrant workers and factory owners Behzad Yaghmaian paints a unique portrait of a country experiencing the turmoil of rapid development. His close listening has produced an intimate look at the hopes, hardships, triumphs and tragedies of those behind the Chinese ‘economic dragon’.

“This remarkable book paints intimate portraits of some of the faceless millions of migrant workers who have made China’s economic miracle possible. Through their stories of hope and heartbreak, Yaghmaian takes readers beyond the statistics to show the revolutionary changes of the last generation. From his grungy apartment in the deliciously named Beautiful Rose Garden housing complex, Yaghmaian introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters: the village girl who moves to the big city with dreams of becoming a ‘white color worker,’ and the factory boss who admits to exploiting his workers and using child labor to make Spiderman bubble-bath for American markets.” – Ivan Watson, CNN Foreign Correspondent

“Unskilled migrants have been central to China’s rapid industrialisation, but their life stories and voices have been missing from previous accounts of that process. Behzad Yaghmaian fills that gap in this new account of China’s epic transformation, told through the personal biographies of men and women working in factories and construction sites. A fascinating, moving and highly readable book.” – Jeff Crisp, Head, Policy Development and Evaluation Services, UNHCR

“Like Ian Johnson’s Wild Grasses or Leslie Chang’s Factory GirlsThe Accidental Capitalist takes us to the epicenter of China’s world-changing transition through a series of portraits of the men and women who make that change possible. Living among them, Yaghmaian trains his political economist’s eye on China’s throes of export-led commercial expansion … He vividly conveys his acquaintances’ sense of excitement and even optimism.” – Professor James Millward, History, Georgetown University