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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid