News / Asia

Chinese Graduates Grow Restless in Beijing's Low-Cost 'Ant Colony'

On the outskirts of China's capital Beijing is a bustling ghetto dubbed the ant colony - a vast community of young professionals forced to live in tough conditions because of a tight job market and rocketing property prices.

Hugging a heater for warmth, 23-year-old Fu Ming surveys the small cell-like room she calls home. She admits it is not quite the life she envisaged after graduating from university as a computer programmer.

She is one of around 50,000 living in Beijing's so-called ant colony - a community of young, educated professionals forced to live in cramped but cheap conditions on the fringes of a suburb called Tangjialing.

Fu Ming, from Inner Mongolia, moved to Beijing in search of a career two years ago. But success has been hard to find. She makes the long commute to a low-paid job - the average wage for a university graduate is around $320 a month - from the shanty town because rents in the city are too expensive.

She says she gets up at 5.30 a.m. and gets to the office via the bus and subway, and she gets home around 9 p.m. Fu says she can not afford to move nearer to work, and that she would like to buy a house.

Fu's room only has one window, which looks onto the dark narrow corridor. The rooms have no running water or air conditioning, but they do have heat and a hot plate for cooking. Laundry is strong along the walls.

Passers-by peer in, adding to the prison atmosphere. But she says she is lucky because she can afford the 300 rmb rent. As many as four tenants are crammed into some rooms.

There is Internet access for those who can afford it, but a television is a luxury Fu cannot afford. She writes a blog about her life in the ghetto and e-mails friends and family detailing her disappointment and "empty feelings".

Tangjialing has become an example of the paradox of China's fast-paced economy.

After expanding universities in the 1980's, China now has more than six million graduates a year, but there are not enough well-paid jobs to go round.

Considered over qualified in their hometowns, the graduates flock to the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai - only to discover they must share bunk beds and rent Spartan rooms to survive. Their dreams of the urban middle-class lifestyle are put on hold.

Just over two years ago, Tangjialing ago was a rural village of 3.000.  But the farmers cashed in on the need for affordable housing and hastily built two and three story dormitories, often illegally. Few of the complexes have fire escapes and other safety measures.

But Fu's home and those of her peers are under threat.

Concerned about the bad image of young university graduates living in slums and the resentment it could foster, the authorities plan to demolish Tiangjialing. They say the area needs to be rebuilt and promise low cost, modern housing for the ant tribe.

The issue has been deemed politically sensitive, however, and officials are reluctant to talk. But many of the "ants" are growing restless. They agree the place is a slum. But as migrant workers, they do not posses the important Beijing hukou registration papers that entitle them to subsidized housing.

Every Chinese is entitled to social security - but only in their home cities, towns and villages.

Computer engineer Zhou Hung is from Hunan and he says life is hard in Beijing without a hukou. Many fellow workers are priced out of the city. He says that he arrived last March with a group of about 30, but now only five or six of them are still here. The rest all left. He says work is hard to find and their expenses are rather high yet the wages are low.

He says if they demolish his home, he will return to his hometown, even though he has no prospects there.

He says he feels hopeless but he thinks the wrecking ball will anger the locals. He says he does not think the government can enforce demolition on the landlords. The landlords will protest because they earn a living.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

There is a good community spirit up and down the corridors. Many residents extend their university life by sharing a room with classmates.

House hunters and university friends Li Yu, Wang Xin and Wnag Yuan, from Shanxi province, are optimistic.

Wang says the buildings are OK and the security is good. If the price is reasonable she will try to live here for a long time. Her work is quite nearby.

Back in her room, Fu Ming says she will try to stay another year to see if her prospects improve. She props a piece of cardboard to block out stares from passersby and says she will make some pretty curtains when she gets the time.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid