As emblems of otherness in a space devoted to commercial and human exchanges and dedicated to mercantilism, Vietnamese women who cross the border and now live in areas bordering China have quickly come to represent their country—in the eyes of Chinese people—as a figure of marginal femininity. Observed, dated, used but rarely understood in a linguistic and cultural sense, it is their strong, sensual, and docile bodies that are primarily considered. Contradictory and accommodating images emerge and then expand in the discourses, portraying these women as submissive spouses, tireless workers, prostitutes, manipulators, heartless pragmatists, devoted companions, and ambiguous merchants. This articles explores how, between perception and experience, these women's availability, in every sense of the term, makes them both attractive and suspicious, and how their alliances with Chinese men crystallizes the social atmosphere of a border city like Hekou.
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