Interviewing the Beijing Locals: July 14th

Although I have found that individually interviewing people provides the most interesting feedback, in order to save on time and gather more results, I created a survey before leaving for China – one for locals and one for migrants. The first section of this survey asked basic questions such as level of education and income, the second section asked things such as hopes and dreams in life, and the third section, somewhat more to the point of my research, asked about views and perspectives on the migrant life and the effect the hukou has on migrants.  Sadly, as I collected surveys, I learned that open-ended questions were not the best method as, to put it bluntly, most middle-class locals seemed to not care about the current migrant situation, and most migrants, the younger hopefuls anyway, saw success as in arms reach as long as they consistently worked hard.  Only the older migrants with children were familiar with the limitations of the hukou and most locals consistently wrote out a generic answer about it affecting a migrant’s ability to find good housing, health care, and to send their children to a good public school.  The questions that ended up providing me with the most feed-back were the short answer, basic information questions.  From those I found that of my 40 participants, half locals and half migrants, locals made 7 times the income that migrants, living in the same city, did.  Because of my small number of participants, this number is, of course, inflated, with larger studies estimating it to be 3 times more.  This number is still quite significant with China currently holding one of the largest gaps between the wealthy and the poor in the world.  With the economic boom, or China’s own Industrial Revolution as I like to see it, and the hukou to intensify it, this gap is only natural.  We have seen this gap both during the British Industrial Revolution and our own.  But to wake up every morning to the smog-filled sky and witness the rapid development myself, a turning point in China’s history, is definitely an experience.  This, of course, does not excuse the economic inequality currently plaguing China, but I believe that as the middle-class becomes more and more financially secure, they too will see the benefits of volunteer work and reaching out to others.  We must remember that only 30 years ago, before Deng Xiaoping’s opening, everyone was, for the most part anyway, on the same playing field and just as equally poor.  The idea of giving to others has not yet entered the mainstream of Chinese culture but I am sure it will soon follow.