The Ant Tribe

On her blog, the Hindustan Times correspondent in China writes about a recent visit to Tangjialing, a crowded residential area outside Beijing that has become home to legions of young, educated migrants:

We reached Tangjialing after leaving behind Beijing’s smooth six and eight-lane highways and gleaming skyscrapers, the cheap KFCs and luxury malls. We drove past barren farmland and stopped under an arch that proclaimed we had reached Tangjialing. Beyond it, stood crowds of students waiting for buses while they munched pancakes and steamed buns sold on handcarts.

There was no coffeeshop or a teahouse in sight, just rows of former two-storey buildings where fifth and sixth floors had been added to accommodate the business of migrants. An unknown number of these residents depend on public toilets and baths hundreds of meters away from their 10 sq m cubbyholes.

Tangjialing has become a centre of Chinese media attention as a reflection of the fast-paced economy’s inability to create enough meaningful jobs for the annual six million-plus Chinese graduates in their own hometowns. When we wandered down the narrow streets, the students refused to chat.

But Sheng Fei Guo, a bespectacled intern who wears his IBM identity card even on weekends, showed us his spartan one-room apartment worth 500 yuan (Rs 3,500) in rent. We asked him if there was a community place with benches where we could chat. He laughed.

Beijing Today writes that Tangjialing is soon to be bulldozed and rebuilt.

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