How the China Boom Unravels: One Person at a Time

China ant tribe cc

Charles Hugh-Smith writes of the dimming of the “Chinese Dream.” Introducing the “Ant Tribe.”

(From Of Two Minds)

Yet for several years in a row now, the average starting salary of a college graduate in China has been less than that of an entry-level factory worker. Of course, after their families have sacrificed and poured their meager resources into the pursuit of an education, most college students find the thought of settling for blue-collar work after graduation inconceivable. In their desperate search for office jobs, graduates from rural towns and small cities congregate in cramped apartments and boarding houses in China’s wealthy coastal cities: “the ant tribe,” the Chinese call them.

Perhaps even more frustrating to China’s young and ambitious is a sense that the golden years of opportunity have already passed them by — the impression that, in Osnos’ words, China’s boom was “a train with a limited number of seats.”

Increasingly, a young person’s success depends on his or her parents’ connections, and one can find considerable vitriol directed against the so-called second-generation rich (fuerdai) when stories of them crashing Ferraris and enjoying $12,000 dinners circulate online.

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