Beijing, Recycling

 

Mr. and Mrs. Cheng have a business in recycling in the Jiu Xianqiao neighborhood no.6. It’s the kind of business you find in every neighborhood. They collect and sort out recyclable waste, like paper or plastic, and sell it to a recycling station. Typically they pay anyone who brings the waste and sell it with a small mark-up. For paper, Mr. Cheng tells us, he pays 0.7 RMB/kg and he sells it with a 0.1 RMB/kg margin for 0.8 RMB/kg. He can sell at least one truck of waste every day. Per month he and his wife earn more than 8,000 RMB.

 

Mr. Cheng has been recycling waste for 10 years and he’s pretty satisfied with his job. He works for himself and his working time is flexible. Mr. Cheng tells he earns more than people doing a normal job. He might even use some of his savings to take his family on a trip to Europe one day, he says.

 

Mr. Cheng lives with his wife and their eight-month-old daughter in a small one-story house next to the waste collection site. Originally they are from the Henan province. These days Mr. Cheng’s parents also live in Beijing, near Jianguomen. Still, they visit their hometown once a year, on Tomb Sweeping Day.

 

Mr. Cheng thinks that the policies of the Chinese government are pretty good; otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to settle down in Beijing and live such a good life. He says that most people in Beijing are from other provinces and, thanks to the good policies, people are free to go to any place they want.

 

 

 

Nanjing, Mr. Song Yi

 

 

 

 

Mr. Song, a local of Nanjing, works as a security guard for a KTV (Karaoke venue) and motel just south of Hunan Road. His daily work includes guarding the entrance of the building and leading the guests to park their cars.

 

He works from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day of the week. Although his salary (that he is unwilling to disclose) may not be that satisfying, he likes his job for its convenience and ease. It is only five-minute walk from his home to the workplace and he appreciates the fact that nobody is supervising him during his work.

 

Mr. Song likes to read books. The amount of idle time in his work allows him to read a lot. He is currently reading a Chinese science fiction novel called Chromosome (written by Yi Xing). He tells that, next to guarding, one of his tasks is to borrow books from the city library for his boss. With the permission of his boss, he can borrow as many books as he likes for himself. His favorite reading is Yi Lin, a famous Chinese magazine that publishes translated foreign literature.

 

 

Nanjing, Mrs. Chen Defang

 

Mrs. Chen, a 60 year old woman from a rural area near Yancheng (a city not far from Nanjing), is working as a maid for a Nanjing family since 4 months. Her everyday job is to take care of a mentally disabled woman who cannot take care of herself.

 

The family needs Mrs. Chen to cook and wash for the woman, which takes her nearly 6 hours per day. She is allowed a short leave every two months, so that she can go back to her hometown. For her job, she earns 1,800 RMB per month, a large part of which will be sent home.

 

She and her husband, who is a farmer, have three children. Her son, a teacher working in one of the best high schools in Yancheng, is the reason that she continues to work at her age. In order to buy an apartment for her newly wed son and his wife, she and her husband borrowed a large amount of money. They would have to endure the debt for years if living on the earnings of her husband’s farming work. Therefore, she has to go out to work so that they can pay off the debt as early as possible.

 

 

Nanjing, Fruit Peddler

 

We meet a woman selling fruit, like mangoes and peaches, along the road. She does not want to be photographed. According to her, if the photos of her are uploaded to the web and found by the police, she may be easily recognized by them and cause trouble for her.

 

Every day at 7:00 a.m. she goes to a wholesale market to purchase fruit. After that she always goes to the same place on a street in the center of Nanjing to sell her fruit from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Then she will go home, as about that time the police (*) will start to patrol in the area. Once she was found by the police peddling along the road and all her fruit was confiscated. She adds that the police do not accept any fees that would allow her to sell her fruit. The profit she makes in one day is around 50 RMB.

 

Other peddlers surround us soon, laughing at her shyness and trying to persuade her to be photographed. One middle-aged man complains to us: “See the people in that institute coming here in their BMW? They belong to the upper class of the society and they own whatever they want. However, people like her, who are among the lowest class, have nothing but a small business to support the family. The government can entitle the elites to expensive cars, cheap houses, and many other things, but allows no space for these people to make a living. Is it fair? ”

 

(*) Actually it is not the police she is referring to, but we could not find a better translation for it. The woman is referring to certain people who patrol in urban areas, supported by the municipal government, to chase out peddlers, confiscate their goods and even beat them. Their excuse to do so is to maintain order and a “good face” of the city.

 

 

Beijing, Car wash

 

 

Mr. Chen (pictured below in the middle) comes from the Hubei province and works in the car wash company of his brother in the Xicheng district of Beijing. All cars are washed by hand. It takes between 2 and 3 minutes to wash a car with four people and the price is 25 RMB.

 

 

 

 

According to Mr. Chen, owners of luxury cars prefer the hand-wash service. The most luxurious car he ever washed was a Rolls-Royce.

This car wash employs 7 employees and they all come from the same village in Hubei province. They can make between 2,000 RMB and 2,500 RMB per month.

 

 

 

 

Beijing street fashion, Mr. Qu

 

Mr. Qu is a taxi driver. We meet him in the Jiugong area. He wears a T-shirt with the text ‘It takes two to stupid’ and in small letters: ‘Frank’s voice dropped a bit. “When the weather was bad he would drive me to school. He had this old truck that he used in his fishing business.’

 

 

Mr. Qu bought the T-shirt for 39 RMB at a street stall nearby.

Pants: 110 RMB, bought from a wholesale mall.

Shoes: more than 50 RMB, bought in his hometown in the northeast of China.

Beijing, Real-estate development in Jiugong

 

The area near the new Jiugong subway station, in the southeast of Beijing, is bustling with building activity. Several new high-rise residential compounds are almost completed and elsewhere workers are preparing building grounds for more real-estate development. The area used to be farmland. We visit the remnants of, what once was, a farmers’ village.

 

 

The one and two story houses of the village have to make way for another development project. Two third of the village has already been demolished, but 40 families refuse to leave.

 

 

 

 

We talk with Mrs. Li Shulan, almost 79 years old, who has lived in the village for the past 54 years. Mrs. Li is a mother of four daughters and two sons, who still live with her and her husband. The project developer, she tells, offered her family two apartments as compensation, but according to her that was definitely not enough to house her family. Apart from that, the apartments offered where of very bad quality and they were destroyed after the case was exposed in the media.

 

All houses in the village should have been demolished by June 2011 according to the developer’s planning. However, 40 families decided to stay because they were not satisfied with the compensation.

 

Mrs. Li tells that in June last year the water and electricity has been cut off and the public toilet has been demolished. For water they now go to a neighbor across the street and instead of going to a toilet they use the open land around the village.

 

Because of the harsh conditions, Mrs. Li wants to move. “What else can I do?”, she says. How and when she can leave is not clear.

 

Mrs. Li was born in the Shandong province. 54 years ago she and her husband moved to Beijing to work as a farmer at the Nanjiang farm. At that time, there were so many farmers that the farm could not provide enough accommodation in the dormitories. Thus, they built their own house in the field and settled down.

 

Now she and her husband, who stays in the house because of health problems, are retired. Together they receive a pension of 4,000 RMB per month.

 

Mrs. Li tells that there are many old people living in this village and a lot of them got ill due to the sanitary conditions and the worries about the future demolition of their houses. A few of them passed away in the past year.

 

When we leave the village we meet some people who live in the neighborhood. They explain that many of the residents in the village have spent all their lives living here, they invested a lot of money in their houses and feel it is hard to leave all their memories behind. Next to that, the compensation fees are too low.

They tell about an old lady from the village. Every night so goes to her daughter’s house to sleep and early the next day she returns to her old house in the village.

 

We also hear a lot of muttering about the rich people who drive poor people, who lived their whole life in this place, out of the city. They express a resentment against the rich, and the preferential treatment of government officials, that we have come across a lot lately.

 

 

 

 

 

The area near the new Jiugong subway station, in the southeast of Beijing, is bustling with building activity. Several new high-rise residential compounds are almost completed and elsewhere workers are preparing building grounds for more real-estate development. The area used to be a farmland and we visit the remnants of what once was a farmers’ village.

The one and two story houses of the village have to make way for another development project. Two third of the village has already been demolished, but 40 families refuse to leave.

We talk with Mrs. Li Shulan, almost 79 years old, who has lived in the village for the past 54 years. Mrs. Li is a mother of four daughters and two sons, who still live with her and her husband. The project developer, she tells, offered her family two apartments as compensation, but according to her that was definitely not enough to house her family. Apart from that, the apartments offered where of very bad quality and they were destroyed after the case was exposed in the media.

All houses in the village should have been demolished by June 2011 according to the developer’s planning. However, 40 families decided to stay because they were not satisfied with the compensation.

Mrs. Li tells that in June last year the water and electricity has been cut off and the public toilet has been demolished. For water they now go to a neighbor across the street and instead of going to a toilet they use the open land around the village.

Because of the harsh conditions, Mrs. Li wants to move. “What else can I do?”, she says. How and when she can leave is not clear.

Mrs. Li was born in the Shandong province. 54 years ago she and her husband moved to Beijing to work as a farmer at the Nanjiang farm. At that time, there were so many farmers that the farm could not provide enough accommodation in the dormitories. Thus, they built their own house in the field and settled down.

Now she and her husband, who stays in the house because of health problems, are retired. Together they receive a pension of 4,000 RMB per month.

Mrs. Li tells that there are many old people living in this village and a lot of them got ill due to the sanitary conditions and the worries about the future demolition of their houses. A few of them passed away in the past year.

When we leave the village we meet some people who live in the neighborhood. They explain that many of the residents in the village have spent all their lives living here, they invested a lot of money in their houses and feel it is hard to leave all their memories behind. Next to that, the compensation fees are too low.

They tell about an old lady from the village. Every night so goes to her daughter’s house to sleep and early the next day she returns to her old house in the village.

We also hear a lot of muttering about the rich people who drive poor people, who lived their whole life in this place, out of the city. They display a resentment against the rich and the preferential treatment of government officials that we have come across a lot lately.

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