Helping by Hiring

Note: This is the response to people’s comment on my last article: Life in a Low Cost Labor World to clarify the reason I wrote it.

Well. It seems I need to clarify the reason I posted the article so Jimmy and Kevin won’t have the impression that I am making fun of the Ayi or something.

There are very serious problems in the way we treat people without a city Hukou here. As everyone here mentioned, they don’t have medical insurance; they don’t have much protection by the society; not many people care about their lives; and they are leading the miserable life. That is the dark side under the sunlight of the city.

However, if donation can solve the problem, we all donate. But it does not, Kevin. Let me tell you why.

If you go out and see the long line outside any Ayi service broker these days, and look at the faces of them, you’ll know personal donation cannot help them all. Even if there is enough donation, you can help them today but not tomorrow, not to mention their lives in the long run.

I talked with an Ayi with surname Zhang when I went to hospital the other day. She wait at the gate of a service broker at Hua Shan Road (near Huai Hai Road). She has been there waiting for someone to hire her since the 4th day of the Spring Festival. More than two weeks past and she still didn’t get a job. She worried a lot about her future. She may not survive in the city. She has child with her and they were feeling hungry. She refused to go back to the village she came from because she don’t have much money to pay the train ticket.

Well. At that time, I thought of some ways to help. To give money to her is one choice, but not the best choice. If I did help by giving money, well, look at the other 30 people in line – how can you help. Even you can help them all that day, but how about their lives tomorrow, and the next year?

So I thought of promoting the service of Ayi. I have made up the mind that if I have any chance to tell people, I will convince people to hire some one who badly needs help so they can make a living. The world is harsh for them, and what we can do it to help them to survive in Shanghai. I know there are some readers of my blog, and I want to say: If you have anything you do traditionally, like my scanning job, instead of paying more for equipments, give the business to those poor people so they can find the job. Post Spring Festival is a hard period of time for most of them because most of them are returning to the city and to find job is not easy.

OK. There may be better solution to this, like remove the Hukou system, or increase the basic salary of Ayi. But I don’t like to just talk about something without action. You may find it out in my previous blog entries. I know what we are proposing is more complicated than what I think. What I CAN do is, give more business to either Ayi or Kuai Di or those who need help. Remember, they are not beggar. They don’t want your easy money. They just want a chance to work so they can raise their child. The solution I am proposing is, visit a Ayi Service broker, call them – I have some phone numbers – and hire an Ayi. Giving them more business and mean time, you also save time and money – that is a win-win situation. It helps them today, and help them to build a future.

I talked about the great contribution of Ayi, Expressman and other people who come to Shanghai to help build the city in this article: when they leave the city to go back home. You don’t need to worry that I have the feeling to be the RICH and look down upon them. I am more concerned with the status of this unique group of people that the lives of so-called white collar (which I am part of). That is the reason I talk with them, and I write about them. The first step to help is get people’s attention to them, I believe.

I am sorry I have to say I feel bad when people think I am happy about hire some one for a very cheap price. I enjoy the fact that I can create a job opportunity for someone better. If we go to gym, the 100 RMB per entrance is not so critical for the business owner of the Gym. But if you call an Ayi and say, help me on this and I pay 7 RMB for you. That 7 RMB means a lot. Is there anyone here proposing me to call an Ayi everyday and say, “Come here and I give you 7 RMB for free”, I believe it is insulting them and I refuse to do it. You may feel comfortable to do it, I don’t.

When I helped those five cats in my garden, and people criticized me “Hey! Why help those cats! I’d rather help more human being”. When I am working on the personal funding proposal to personally donate money to the fund every month from my salary, someone argued: “Why help those people who are rich enough to go to college? Many people in China villages are starving now.” Well. It seems whatever I do, someone will guide me to do some more meaningful things. So I learnt that no matter how small the good deed is, just do it. One personal cannot make an impact to the world, but at least can help one or two other people. Help people one by one.

Of cause the reason I didn’t put the reason behind this in the article directly is, we cannot ask people to do something only to HELP others. It is not the way the world works. We need to explain it in a way that people find it beneficial for themselves. So I used the relaxing tone and samples to tell people – Hire an Ayi, hire an express man – it costs little but help YOU a lot. Does it make sense?

48 thoughts on “Helping by Hiring

  1. I agree that increase the working opportunities of the house maid and street paddler would solve their imminent livelihood. but the long term solution would be teaching them a skill and they can perfect it in the future, this is the different between skill and non-skill worker.

    If the majority of China remain as non-skill worker, sooner or later it is going to haunt the country should they decided to rebel.


  2. What you are dealing with is the reality in a society like China today. Services like express man and ayi are things that people consider necessary and are willing to pay for, but because of the huge amount of people fulfilling these jobs, the salaries received are cheap. The same can be said about massage places staffed by blind people. The prices offered are very cheap and often there will be many of these places located within a small area. The jobs these people may be doing aren’t quite as “dignified” as white collar jobs to some, but they are hard workers and just trying to make a living. As you said, it is a “win-win” situation because they earn a salary which can benefit them while you get a service that you need.

  3. Seeing post by “Stephen” makes me very disturbed. If you cannot afford Ayi, then you or your family member are the Ayi. You will do all the housework yourself and no time for career (as for a lot of women in the US) or fun (as for a lot of families in the West). A single person will not experience that situation until children arrive. In Los Angeles area, I see many moms struggle becuase the going rate for Ayi is $1,700 US per month and $10 per hour. As a result, 95% of my friends cannot afford Ayi and are resentful of the situation. I have a America friend recently moved to Shanghai with her husband and three school age boys. Do you know how much work there is to raise three kids? Her quality of life improved so much in Shanghai that she vows never to return to the US.

    I believe the situation in Europe is much worse. Workers rather sit at home and collecting money from their government than going out to work. Why work if you can ask for it. A society operates like that will lose its competitive edge sooner than later.

  4. This is the most excellent article that I’ve read for a while. The insight cannot be more correct: you don’t help a group of people (or the economy in general) grow by just giving them free money. By teaching someone “how to fish” they can be better off for the many days ahead instead of just today or tomorrow. I believe if this is practiced very thoroughly in China, the 21st century will belong to China, since the majority of the people there will have the knowledge and skills for long term productivity.

  5. Shelly,

    Life without a baby sitter or day care service is not the end of the world. One must fail to consider the consequence of having three kids.

    I live in Canada and never employ a maid to do the house works, my home is very much automated and I enjoy doing the house work as an exercise. I deem if I cannot take care myself, how could I go out to work and to support my family?


  6. JS-

    “No matter how small the good deed, just do it.” I think you got it just right.

  7. Don’t forget “No good deed goes unpunished.” I’ve found the latter to be more true.

  8. Check out this charitable organization. It has helped many communities across the world by teaching them farming skills and also providing them with the seed money to start them off. It helps the poor by giving them their dignity and a much needed skill.

    Stephen I do agree with your post that you can get on in life without domestic help and it’s not the end of the world. However, once you have been exposed to such perks in life, it’s hard to go back.

    In any case, we can help a lot by treating the Ah Yis and other workers with respect when they work for us.


  9. There is nothing wrong with being a Ayi. Sometimes Ayi makes more money than computer programmer in the US. It is simply “supply and demand” at work. Believe me, when Ayi is in short spply, they will be treated like royalty.

  10. Majority of the Ayi in the US work for the woman of the household. Men simply stay out of it. It is foolish to assume people do not treat their Ayi nicely. An Ayi is an employee who works at home.

  11. Wang Jianshou, having reread your post, I focused on the last few paragraphs this time. Very few people even try to make an attempt to be charitable, while many people criticize you for what you are doing, I wonder how many of them are doing things that are going to benefit others. If one doesn’t have much money, they can give their time. That you have causes you consider close to your heart is what matters and hopefully you can make a difference. There will always be people in need, but you can’t spend all your time listening to others or trying to judge who is most in need. Instead, just do what you can for those causes you care about most, because if you care for them, you are bound to be able to do more good than if you are just doing it based on some scale of needs.

  12. hope I’m not annoying, 2 more things…haha, first, sorry for my typo of your name. Second, to Stephen, there is a problem to your thinking. In theory, it is great to teach someone a skill and so they don’t have to do unskilled labor. But the problem is, there are only so many skilled labor jobs, even in “developed” countries there are still many people who do “unskilled” labor because society requires it. Many of these Ayi’s come to Shanghai and other large cities from small areas where skilled labor opportunities are nonexistant or minimal. Then there are groups in society like the disabled who are refused the opportunity to become skilled laborers.

  13. I think it’s very simple that a job is a job is a job. We don’t look at a person differently because of what they do for a living (of course, it has be legal.)

    And I also wanna clarify that I didn’t comment in the first post. It was another Kevin. :P

    Anyway, also I am adding a post about Ayi in my blog.



  14. Ayi Matters…

    I wrote about my kitchen being a trash dump the other day, and express the urgency that I need to find an Ayi. I finally found one yesterday thru one of my neighbors. I am just glad.

    And coincidentally, Jianshuo wrote about Ayi in his blog, and ma…

  15. Thanks for all the comments. All of them are nice and candid thoughts

    I agree with Stephen on the point that if they are trained, they may get better life. Well. That is something I can only comment on and cannot do. At least I can train an Ayi to use computer to input bar code. :-) I am the kind people who prefer to do something, no matter how small and don’t like to talk about something out of my control. My phylosophy on this blog is: If there is something good, share it. If there is something bad, instead of complain, tell people how to workaround it or avoid it.

    Shelly’s point is also reasonable, since the economy of a country are complicated enough that easy comments like train someone, or raise the level of salary do not work in real world. It is just hard to implement.

    Another thing we need to distinguish is, although they charge very low for their service, it does not mean they don’t owe people’s respect. As Kevin put it, a job is a job.

    Kevin (the original kevin who started the comment yesterday), and Jimmy, I didn’t mean to “fight back” or something. I respect everyone’s comment on this board as long as it is a clear expression of what they think. There is always misunderstanding and there is always disagreement. The good way is to hold an open and honest discussion.

  16. Jian Shuo, what you proposed is nice and kind, but the problem is running

    much deeper within the system. China has the tendency to be extreme. We

    were “Total Social-ist” country, now we are “Total Capitalist” country in

    terms of Economics. In my opinion, a balance between “Social” value and

    “Market” efficiency is what China need. There are many ways to solve the

    problem. How about some more taxes for people who make lots of money, so at

    least Ayi would have basic medical insurance, food and schooling for the

    Children. How about elect some “Ayi” as Ren Da Dai Biao (House

    Representatives), so their voice can be heard and their rights could be

    protected. I know this is not easy, but as an intellect with conscious (I

    certainly think you are), at least you can voice your concern and maybe

    bring to attention to more and more people, I think this probably is more

    meaningful than correcting all of the incorrect spelling in Shanghai


  17. What China needs today is the proliferation of knowledge to all class of people, of course it starts with basic education. There are an old saying “knowledge is power”.

    I know a farmer in Canada, he has a degree in agriculture, he is also a chemist, mechanic and weatherman, he and six of the staff manage 2500 acres of land with array of machinery, who say farmer cannot get rich?

    Should China treat education as eager as summer game 2008, then Chinese will walk away from poverty in no time.


  18. Shelly,

    A woman being a housewife in the US isn’t a sign of poverty, but of being well-off. The husband makes enough money so his wife doesn’t have to work. There are many wives that wish they could do that.


    Heavy taxation and a nanny state is not the solution. Just visit Europe to see what happens when you do something like that. You hurt the economic growth of the nation and breed a society of lazy free-loaders.


    Read up on the actual success of organizations like Peace Corp. There is very little they actually help. Sure, those that work in Peace Corp and donate to such organizations feel good about themselves, but that’s about it. What you think is useful skills that people should know can very easily not be. If you really want to help them, start up a for-profit business and do business deals with them. Don’t be charitable, but demand value for your dollar. Switch to another local company if they offer better prices. You’ll find that helps FAR more than hand-outs. And I did just that with a small village in Cameroon, Africa. I later sold it for a nice profit and it has continued to make that village a booming economy in that country. No hand-outs. No charity. It will continue on not due to constant begging for donations but because it is profitable to do so. That is the best way to help any improvished community.


    Your promoting the use of Ayi is great. In your original post, you were encouraging people to hire Ayi not for charity or some other social “good” but to show how everyone benefits. That’s capitalism at its best. A win-win situation for all. Charity only breeds resentment, hurts self-esteem, and keeps people down. Jobs and business raise people up. No sane person on the face of the Earth wants to always remain poor and dependent. We all want to become something better. To be an equal. Charity does none of that. Just the opposite.

    The only thing I feel sorry about is your need to post this explanation to those that don’t know any better. Not that your explanation is bad, but that you felt there was a need to give it.

    Keep up the good work!

  19. Wang Jianshuo’s thoughts and idea is very much down to earth with China today’s situation, and it’s excellent. Stephen is just a big talker in a way.

  20. Tough_Lefse:

    What I proposed is not heavy taxation, but a balance between taxation and free market. I have heard similar points in your comments on PBS just a few weeks ago. It is about UN actually has a special small business loa-n program which lend money to the people from poor area, instead of giving money out they will provide the seed money to jump start some small business. It has been very successful so far. Because most of the poor countries have really corrupted government agencies, lots of the donation have been benefits only a few but not majority people who need them. But I don’t think your approach or other suggestions in this blog are the only right solutions to this complex problem. By simply saying who is right who is wrong is not going to help solving the problem.

    By the way, I have been to Europe. Simply to criticizing people who live in Europe are lazy is laughable, on the Contrary, I found people over there have been enjoying lifes more than we do in States.

  21. Bluekite:

    Just for your information, only 2% of the US household makes more than $250,000 a year. IF you live in West LA and make that kind of the money, you can barely afford a full-time Ayi. “Staying at home wife” is definately not a sign of “well-off”, instead, a sign of “middle class”. It costs more to hire an Ayi than the wife can make at work – after tax and other job related expenses. It just does not make sense for the wife to work. The sign of “well-off” is “staying at house wife and with an Ayi”. Less than 2% in the US can afford that. In Europe, that number is even smaller. This goes beyond Ayi, including all kind of services.

    On the contrary, majority of the professional people can afford Ayi in Shanghai. In that sense, the quality of life is better in Shanghai. The spending power is relatively higher than the West. Living expenses of $1000 in Shanghai is equivelent of $20,000 in California. After visiting Shanghai a few times, I found people there more “well-off” than in the West.

  22. The poor don’t magically become educated and well-off just because some “smart” people say they’d be better off getting an education and high paying skilled jobs. In an ideal world, maybe everyone can get phD in chemistry, become a experienced mechanic, study meterology, and own a 2500 acre farm, but that’s not possible in the real world, at least not in China where there’s less than 0.3 acres of arable land for each person. Here in the US, I often hear things like “the people in such and such country are so poor and are being paid so little, therefore we should make them improve their living conditions by boycotting their products”. Such is what passes for logic and reasoning for people who live in so much luxury and comfort they can even comprehend what poverty is.

  23. Oops, that last sentence should be “can’t even compreheand what poverty is”

  24. BlueKite,

    Do know that taxation is involuntary. No one freely pays their taxes. Governments threaten their citizens with imprisonment and, if they physically resist, even death if they refuse to pay their taxes. So do not put taxation and free markets in the same equation. Free markets don’t put guns to people’s heads to force them to buy their products and services. Free market succeed on win-win transactions.

    As for the UN’s lending to small businesses in improvished countries, do some research on it. I have. Governments abuse these programs like crazy. And don’t hold up the UN as some model of purity either. It’s a very corrupt bearucracy. Read up on the Oil 4 Food scandal for just the tip of the iceberg on that organization.

    As for Europe, I’ve been there too and was speaking not only from first-hand knowledge but being a consultant to European businesses and an advisor to several European politicians. That you found some people living there that are better off than in the States is meaningless. I could do likewise with any country in the world … even those during in the turmoil of a civil war. I was talking about their societies as a whole.

  25. Shelly,

    Do realize that what some people think is middle-class is what other think of as well-off. Lately, most people think that “middle class” means someone like a professor, accountant, or police captain. Others would put “middle class” as someone like a lawyer, doctor, or marketing executive. Still others would put it as someone that makes over $200,000 a year but less than a half a million. I was using pretty much the middle definition.

    Also, having a live-in domestic staff is becoming less and less popular with the higher classes. It’s about privacy mainly. For example, I have a cousin that is the founder and CEO of a cell phone company, major stockholder in it, and is by any definition wealthy. His wife is a housewife and they don’t have a live-in maid. They do have a maid service that comes through every week, but that’s it.

  26. Jianshuo, I really enjoy your blog more and more the past few days. I posted on my own blog about how the art of conversation has been diminished and its too bad…I love to come here, read your insightful words and see all of the comments, like on this post, where your original post will lead to comments and will spark discussion, that is what a blog should be, keep up the interesting posts and hope that everyone will continue with the discussions!

  27. Tough_Lefse:

    Taxation & Free Market:

    You are right taxation are enforced by government upon on you. But this alone won’t un-justivfy the existence of taxation. In life, there are many many things which are enforeced upon you, it does not mean they are all un-necessary. The reasoning I put free market and taxation in the same equation is that a minimal taxed country may maintain 10% econmic growth, but 1% of people will control 90% of the wealth; on the other hand,a medium taxed country will maintain 7% of economic growth,but 99% of the people will control 90% of the wealth. There is no doubt in mind I will take later. (the statistics are purely fictional for illustration purpose.)


    Any non-profit organization has tendcy to be more corrupted than profit organization. However, UN has serve many many purposes. Without UN, Bush probably took us to the war three years earlier and invade bunch other countries as well. I firmly believe the world as a whole we need UN, we just need a better check and balance system.


    This is a personal preference. Comparing a person who work 35 hours a week with a older model of ipod and a person who work 50 hours work with the latest gadget, I don’t think there is anything wrong people prefer and choose either life style.


    Yes. You are right a large percentage of the people in big city can afford a Ayi. But there are even larger percentage of the whole population of China can only work as Ayi and Ming Gong. That is where the problem lies.

    I am orginially from China. I have many friends who went back to China and I have many many more friends who choose to stay. (including myself). For a person with free will, there are lots of other reasons to choose a place to live other than to be able hire an Ayi.

  28. Bluekite:

    It is not a problem that there are larger percentage of the whole population can only work as Ayi and Ming Gong. The society cannot function without them. For them also, it is a vast improvement from where they were. Things takes time to change, sometimes it takes one or two generations. All dynasty rises and falls. The 21th century belong to China.

    As far as Europe, you may like their 35hours per week life style. Eventually, somebody will have to pay for this life style. It is not free. The cost might very well be “losing its competitive edge” and decay in the end.


    Ayi includes all full time domestic helpers, live-in or out. If you are ultra rich, you have a separate apartments for your staff to keep your privacy. These staff may live mucher nicer than majority of the people.

  29. Shelly:

    Yes. Any society change takes time, but it does not comes automatically. I think that is why we have this conversation, so different views can be presented and eventually people making choices.

    As a Chinese, it is still troubling for me to hear that 21 century is belong to China. If you look closely (or you don’t need to looks closely), modernization of China essentially a process to becoming captalism and individulism, which are fundermentals of western civilization. So according to your logic, 21 century should belong to western civilzation. However, personally I don’t like the century belong to any one country or one value. When I was living in SF, there was a kindergardern nearby. At the play ground, I see many many little kids who are Black, White, Asian and Latino, they play togther with such joy, energy and hope. It is just such a beautiful scenary. At that moment, races and countries are all becoming irrelevent. I wish and hope this century can truly belong to all of us not as a country but as a citizen in this world.

  30. Shanghai will be more mixed than SF one day. There are already black, white, latino and any other races. Going to any Jazz club in Shanghai at night, chances are you will see a black performer from NY. Shanghai is like 1903 New York where there is a rush of people going there from all over the world.

    China also had the civilization 500 years ago. This is the revival. This civilization is not going to be an exact copy of the Western civilization. It will have its own unique character. Chinese culture is too rich.

    By the way, the Chinese government is doing an as a good job as they can, given the most difficult task of improving over 1 billion people’s standard of living. They have a lot of challenges, so do any other governments. Compare to the Bush administration, they deserve a lots of credits.

    You should be open minded. Do not be sad that China left your behind because you are not there to make the difference.

  31. In the last 100 years, China underwent from feudalism, individulism, communism and then capitalism, at each stage of the change, the government always takes people to the extreme, is that too much for the people to adapt?


  32. Stephen:

    Go to China, feel it yourself. It is full of optimism. People are by large very happy there, because the standard of living is improving rapidly for the majority of the people, everywhere. There is plenty of job for everybody if you desire to work. And there is no immigration problem like here. So much anti-immigrant sentiment in the US because job opportunities are so scarce. It is a sign of low confidence in the economy. When GDP growth is more than 10%, jobs are created exponentially more than an economy that grows only 3%. You can work in China without much restriction. The local Chinese may have much less income compare to the Western salary, but they have vastly better life than before. They might have more buying power because goods for basic living are cheap there. Their confidence level is high.

    China now is a much better land of opportunity than the US.

  33. Bluekite: Maybe as kids there is racial mixing, but just wait until those people grow up! I went to high school in the US in a fairly middle class suburb of Chicago that was extremely diverse. The majority of students were white, but there were aslo blacks, asians (including south asians), and latino students. A trip to the lunch room each day clearly showed this because black students sat with the other black students, asian students sat with other asians, and whites sat with other whites. This wasn’t a hard and fast rule, obviously there was some mixing and there was no discrimination at my school, it was just a choice the students made (and one that has been studied by some sociologists and books have been written on this). I could not disagree with you more, races and countries are more relevant today than ever before due to globalization. I disagree with those that feel globalization makes these things meaningless…

    Further your problem with the “Chinese Century” seems to be a problem with the government, because they, just as much as anyone else, is encouraging this process of modernization, which will lead to (and has led to) capitalism and a definite rise in individualism.

    Shelly: my attitude on China is this, if you want to view it optimistically, there is plenty of things to make you optimistic, but if you want to look at it pessimistically, there is more than enough to scare you. I would not say that the “confidence level is high” among many of my friends who are working in China. While the standard of living in the cities is improving, in the countryside the standard of living hasn’t improved in probably 50, 100 years. Maybe today they have some modern convienences, but their jobs aren’t changing and the hard labor they do hasn’t changed. Your statements ring true for the Shanghai/Beijing/Guangzhou/Shenzhen world, but not for many of the cities (and towns and countryside) that exist below that first tier.

  34. Shelly:

    Re “Shanghai will be more mixed than SF one day.”

    In SF, minority race has exceed 50% of the population. What is the chance that Shanghai will have 50% people which are non-Chinese? The point I try to make here is not racial mix is good or bad, but lots of your assertions are too emotional to be taken seriously.

    Let me ask you four questions,

    1. Randomly count 10 of your friends who are coming from China but currently or used to live in U.S, how many of them left and how many of them are planning to leave?

    2. Are you from China? Are you planning to go back to Shanghai in the near future?

    3. According to you, “People are by large very happy there”, how did you get these impression?

    4. According to you, “There is plenty of job for everybody if you desire to work”, do you have any data to backup what you claim.

  35. I’d like to comment something on Europe since I have been here for the last 6 years. It is true that there are lots of people living on social wellfare offered by government, which is from my 48% tax rate every month. But I think it is OK. Compared to the States, people here more relaxed, and you don’t find people searching for food in the street rubish bin. I agree that such system will cause more lazy people, you have the freedom to choose not to work and to be fed by other people. I believe this idea is more developed than US.

    I agree with Shelly that quality of life is better in Shanghai with same wage as in US or Europe. US is just at the worst situation compared with China and Europe, people don’t earn that much to hire an Ayi like in China, while the government is not going offer you free money to take a break like in Europe.

  36. Shelly,

    Appreciate your gesture, but this country has been kind to me and I am spoilt.

    Should you feel life is hard in US, perhaps you should try Canada for a change.


  37. Stephen:

    I lived in Vancouver, Canada for two years about 20 years ago. It was very hard to get ahead. There were much less opportunities than the California (right now the 5th largest economy in the world). I am not talking about being comfortable. I am talking about being able to go to the top, being the best. The problem is that you are spoilt. It is good for you, but maybe really bad for you. You could have fulfilled higher potential if the situation was worse. Just like the children of the rich families are sometimes not as driven. People have different priorities.

    If you want to be the best, it is hard everywhere. However, someplaces have more opportunities than others.

  38. Boran:

    You probably have not seen the latest article on business week. The government plan to migrate 500 millions farmers to the cities in the next 15 years. This is very ambitious because 15 years is very short period of time to do that. Sure everything has positive and negative sides, but look at what they have accomplished. It is unbelievable. The US business world predicts that it will take the Chinese even shorter period of time to rise to the world top (becomes the largest GDP country) than it took the US (when US overtook Britain to be the number 1).

  39. Shelly,

    I really enjoyed my time in China and found it an absolutely fascinating country, but I think you are going a bit overboard in your optimism. 500 million migrants moving into cities over 15 years doesn’t mean they will all suddenly own suburban homes and a Volkswagen.

    Rather, I get the feeling that China is, more than ever, moving to resemble many other ‘developing’ countries (and even many ‘developed’ ones) where you have huge wealth disparities, the glittering downtowns surrounded by miles of slums. One of the reasons, in my opinion, that Chinese cities appear so ‘developed’ and ‘rich’ is largely because they have managed to keep the teeming masses out and can concentrate the wealth among the urban few at the expense of the rural many. That they can also use dirt cheap labour (sometimes so cheap they aren’t even paid) to build these glittering cities also helps.

    I’m definitely a non-believer in the magic of ‘modernity’ to solve problems.

    I’m currently living in London, a so-called ‘modern’ city: go take a tour through the east end and north of Canary Wharf, and you will see extensive poverty that no amount of nice bank towers and luxury condos can fix.

  40. Patrick:

    One has to start somewhere. China today is definitely not the same as the developed counties. Please give time. It takes the US more than 150 years to past Britain. If it takes China another 50 years to reach the level of the West, that would be remarkable. If you knew China 20 years ago when everyone was in poverty, You would be super impressed about their achievement. Nobody knows how much the government can achieve, but these 500 million people’s life will be vastly improved.

  41. Shelly,

    My big question is: why always the competition?? If China doesn’t overtake the what! Hopefully, things will improve for many Chinese people, but I honestly believe this idea of competition will only lead to ruin. Honestly, who cares who has the tallest building? Who cares who has the most BMWs? Who cares who has the biggest economy? Having the world’s biggest market hardly means everything becomes ok. China can have the world’s biggest market and still have 600 million desperately poor people. I wish China all the best, but I also wish it would stop being so insecure and always comparing itself to ‘developed’ countries. What does ‘developed’ mean, anyways? Not much, really, besides that the rich have nicer buildings and the poor USED to have some kind of support.

  42. Patrick:

    A country’s standard of living is measured by GDP per capital. A country’s GDP is important for its political and economical position in the world. It is perfectly fine that you do not care, but business world cares immensely. Chinese GDP is growing 10% per year and the West thinks Chinese is underestimating. While other wealthy nations struggle to grow 2 to 3%. At this rate, the poor people population in China will shrink quickly.

    My point is: do not worry about the Chinese. Their government is doing fine. Their people are doing well. Worry about yourself. You might have more serious problems than the Chinese.

  43. I can understand Shelly’s concern, when a giant is growing up, people tend to worry about how to deal with that, especially, a giant who has been annoyed by you before. I guess British got trouble with American before and fortunately they did well to please them by being American’s yesman. I don’t if someday China will ask all the Chinese antiques in London to return home when China, but I know Indian asked the Queen to return her dimond on her crown back to India when she visited there.

    Don’t say who cares, we do care.

  44. Shelly,

    Vancouver is the residential city of Canada, most retirees would enjoy the weather and scenery there but commercial activies is limited due to its geographical location. Many immigrates pick Vancouver as their landing point not aware of the macro-economic situation usually ends up in the rut.

    You are inviting people from the west to explore opportunity in the China which I can understand. China in the last twenty years has made fast progress and developed its unique pattern of economy, within that body, competition and marketing are so fierce and sometime is beyond of our comprehension. I know people with great ambition went to China to seek their opportunity and many came back empty handed. After all, China is not the land of plenty, to be successful in China, one must have special connection and edge over the other.

    People like us is comfortable and content with our life here, of course will not consider to fight another day in China. Like I said, I am hopelessly spoilt.

    To reach the pinnacle of the career? it is a lonely place and I would not like to be there.


  45. Stephen, your last comment is really cute, I like that. Now, I start to understand some of your previous comments which I thought were quite naive to China’s current condition.

    However, the struggling point for most first generation immigrants NOWADAYS is to reach the ‘comfortable and content with our life here’ from heart and soul. Only way is to come here young, otherwise, the struggling will most likely to last the whole life for most of the people.

  46. Oui,

    I share the same view on your latter part. Many middle age immigrate from China lacking language ability are subject to exploiation same way like the “Ayi” in China.


  47. Hi Jianshuo,

    I live and work in Shanghai, and I too have an ayi. I was wondering if you could give me the addresses of a couple of ayi service brokers. I have a charitable business idea, and am gathering as much information about migrant women in shanghai as I can. Thanks for you help.

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