A Chinese protagonist’s “fistful of tears” troubles the dominant narrative that Chinese migrate to make money. This chapter juxtaposes the disparaging version that Italians tell about the Chinese quest for money with a nuanced version that Chinese tell about themselves. The author situates Chinese migrants’ desire to make money in three structural encounters, each at a different level of scale: the Wenzhou regional model of economic development; the Made In Italy environment of small firms; and a global restructuring of the clothing industry. These encounters shape migrant experiences and reveal the complex meanings and practices behind what would appear a universal quest for money. Persistent old-world principles arguably animate new rationalities of global capitalism. The chapter follows Peng, who “exchanged his youth for money, not his labor.” Stories from other immigrants complicate the stereotype. Principles of reciprocity and obligation disrupt narrow interpretations of global capitalism. This chapter disrupts notions related to quests for monetary value as merely self-interested. As it illuminates the lives of workers in the flexible fast lane, it complicates the prestige of the Made in Italy brand. Even if money is mostly “historyless stuff,” people bring different meanings to their quest, and new histories emerge.
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