Here are two personal stories, as been told on Al Jazeera 101 East Documentaries Programmes.
For Wang Yunping, fate initially promise the life as a physics teacher in her home province of hebei, but she has chosen another path. Wang is one of a few millions of Chinese who flock to major big cities in search of prosperity, they are the first come of age in the era of opportunity.
Here Wang Yunping share her story:
“Your fate isn’t predetermined and I believe through your own hard work and struggle you can change it. I was supposed to be a teacher after graduation, but there were already enough teachers in my hometown. But I’ve always had a dream in my mind, I want to do something on my own. My goal in going to Beijing is to make money. I want to give my parents a better life. My Challenge now is my age. I was born in 1983. My parents think I’m not young any more and I agree. My younger brothers and sisters all got married. Only I am left. It’s kind of embarrassing that I am still not married yet. My parents have been pushing me to get married. They said it’s not good to give birth to a baby when you are too old. I’m concerned. But the main reason is that I’m sad after breaking up with my ex-boyfriend. This time has been very difficult. I have learned that you can’t rely on anyone else. You have to improve yourself. So I made up my mind to try to pass the postgraduate exam and pursue a better life.
If you have a dream, and you want to achieve it, you should go to the big cities. You’ll have a lot of opportunities. As long as you have some skills, you will have a chance to succeed. Beijing is a modern, busy and expensive city. However, there is no place for you to feel stable when you don’t have your own place. When I first came here, I had no idea of the world outside, I was just fearless. I thought money was just everywhere. You thought you’d just scoop it up for yourself, but it’s not like that at all. When I first arrived in Beijing I earned $190 US a month, for breakfast, I spent 15 to 30 cents, and the lunch costs around 75 to 90 cents. I usually didn’t eat anything for dinner. I occasionally had some fruit. Prices have increased a lot. Even though my salary is several times higher than before. But my salary can’t catch up with the increase in living expenses.”
After 5 years and 3 jobs in Beijing, Wang shares a single room and one bed with a room mate. She is now working for a wedding agency, earning a little more than 600 US dollars a month.
“My clients are all relatively rich, why is there such a big difference between them and me? I wonder when I can have that kind of life? Maybe I’ll never have it even if I pursue it my whole life. I found that in Beijing, if you are not an elite, it’s very hard to survive. I definitely won’t stay in Beijing for very long. My plan is to get a master’s degree and then work for a foreign company, I’ll then save some money for several years and go to a second or third tier city and open my own creative bakery. Everybody has pressure, I think the competition is intense here and I have this constant dread in my heart, it’s the pressure to survive, if you don’t work, you won’t have money to eat, not to mention anything else. So it’s very difficult.”
Chen MingJian, who left his hometown of Southern Hunan province to attend universities in Beijing, but his life in the Chinese capital hasn’t gone as it planed.
Here Chen MingJian shares his story:
”It’s often said, ‘If you can’t study well, you should go back home and sell sweet potato’. It’s a joke, but sometimes I think about it. If I can’t make it I’ll just go home. Chen left his hometown in Southern Hunan province to attend universities in Beijing, but his life in the Chinese capital hasn’t gone as it planed. “I am from a little village, before I came here the only thing I knew was how to take exams. I was supposed to graduate in 2010. I was scared of letting my parents know I didn’t finish my bachelor study on time. So I told them I wanted to take the postgraduate exam again for the next year, my parents still don’t know I took five years to graduate. Imagine if they knew, what do you think how they would feel? They would be so disappointed. I told them I found a very good job in Beijing. I said I work in an education and training company. I did other jobs before I worked in a supermarket for two months. And I worked as a courier for China Post, but after one week I left, I felt the job didn’t suit me.”
Chen now works making delivery for a fast food restaurant. “My current job is full-time. I work 6 and a half hours a day and earn about $300 US per month. Anyway I can save some money and it’s enough for setting up a small business, of course I want to live in a better place, I’d like to win 5 million in the lottery then I could move to a luxurious house. But I don’t have such luck, then it’s OK if I just have enough money to cover my expenses, first I need to find a good job, if I find a stable job, my situation will get better. If you want to stay in Beijing, you must have money or fame, but I have neither of them, if you want to become famous or rich, the normal way is to get into a company, but I feel the people who work for companies spend all of their money. They work for others. Everyone is the same, the way they spend money and live. Do you think the people who work for companies are rich? Or they can be very famous? Can they achieve something? I don’t think they will make a difference in the end. Of course I want a girlfriend. But I think it’s not the right time. See the place where I am currently living, and it must cost a lot to have a girlfriend. If I find a girlfriend I hope she is the kind of the person who will not spend a lot of money and she will support what I do. If I go home and see people who are the same age as me, maybe one did as well on exams as me, he went to a local university in my province and now he is doing really well, or some others whose scores were not as good as mine, but they have a family now. At least they have their own family. But I have nothing. Actually I thought about suicide when I was about to graduate from university. I thought I had nothing and I achieved nothing, when I first came to university, I had plans that were unrealistic, but I gave them up one by one and in the end I had nothing. I had no goal for my life, and got nothing in the end. I wanted to give up myself.”
As reported on Al Jazeera 101 East Documentaries Programmes
Edited by Philip Caruso