Appears in NYT Opinionator blog after print edition. Writer is former Singaporean reporter/photojournalist.
Part of a series on inequality.
With the “rats” and “ants,” the trash collectors, cobblers and couriers, it took time to build rapport and trust. But it was even harder to get wealthy Chinese — perhaps like rich people everywhere — to open up. Most live in gated, guarded communities on the outskirts of the city, and socialize behind closed doors. A few months ago, I was granted rare permission to photograph inside an exclusive club in Beijing for high rollers, and only at a party where some members were in costume.
The migrant workers and the poor mostly accept that life is unfair, at least for now.
“There is no difference between me and the people who live in the posh condominium above,” Zhuang Qiuli, 27, a “rat tribe” pedicurist who lived in a basement apartment, told me in Beijing. “We wear the same clothes and have the same hairstyles. The only difference is we cannot see the sun. In a few years, when I have money, I will also live upstairs.”
I was just struck by the sun reference. Other big driver in China is, of course, the pollution, which is why, on many days, nobody gets to see the sun.
As always, the similarities to the populism of the Second Industrial Revolution in the US are striking.