Lonely festivals pain young migrants’ city dreams

by Xinhua writers Cheng Lu and Qiang Lijing
BEIJING, Feb. 13 — While some are fussing that a Chinese and a western festival have collided, millions of migrant workers are on coaches and trains, returning to the cities from their rural hometowns.
The traditional Lantern Festival falls on Feb. 14 this year, or Valentine’s Day. Unlike their urban counterparts with hard choices to make between family and lover, the young migrants are more nonchalant.
“It’s not the right time for rural young people with urban dreams to enjoy family reunions and romantic relationships,” said 24-year-old tea specialist Wang Miao.
Wang has struggled for four years to become a real urbanite in Xi’an, the provincial capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Now, she runs a well-known coffee and tea house, wearing makeup and high-heeled shoes. She looks no different from any other white collar worker, but the label of “rural migrant” still sticks.
“The high cost of living and frequent moves make it difficult for us to build a stable romantic relationship in the city,” Wang complained.
Whenever she goes home, her parents push her to go on blind dates with men she doesn’t know. Most rural girls of her age have married and even have children, but she refuses.
“I have fully adapted to urban life. Even if I was willing to go home, I have no farming skills and nobody could offer me a job as tea specialist there.”
There is a big divide between the rural and the urban in China, and armies of young people from the countryside are trying to carve out lives for themselves in the cities, said Zhang Yan, a sociologist with the Shaanxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
Statistics from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security show that China had about 269 million migrant workers by 2013.
Formerly, migrant workers dreamt of making a fortune in big cities and then building a house back home. According to Zhang, there is a new generation of migrants, mainly born in 1980s and 1990s, who aspire to being fully integrated into the city, but they still work in low paid manufacturing or service industries, just like their predecessors.
Chen Shuang, 23, is one of them. After travelling for more than 10 hours from her village in central China’s Hubei Province, she arrived at Kunshan in the flourishing eastern province of Jiangsu, where she makes a living in a motherboard factory.
Kunshan is the fourth city — after Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen — where Chen has pursued her urban dream in the past five years. She went home for Spring Festival, but still feels homesick as the Lantern Festival approaches.
Valentine’s Day, widely celebrated by urban people in recent years, is a meaningless occasion for her, without roses, chocolates or lover.
“Unless I can be accepted by the city, I won’t get married,” Chen said. By “accepted”, she means getting a “hukou” [db:内容2]

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