Desires: Part I


Desires of the Chinese Dream: Part One

By Tian Chen


Photo by Sarah Pringle

王传良(男),20,销售 李君(女),20,销售:房子; Chuanliang Wang, 20, salesperson and Jun Li, 20, salesperson: an apartment unit

Chuanliang Wang took his girlfriend, Jun Li, to Shanghai from a small town in the Zhejiang Province to see the Oriental Pearl Tower for the first time.

The couple conquered the fear of height, 863 feet above the ground, on the Tower’s all-glass-floored observation platform.

While enjoying the magnificent view of Pudong, Wang said there is only one thing left to realize his Chinese dream: an apartment unit, where Li and he can get married and raise their future child.

But considering their education and jobs, they may never afford a decent place.

China’s real-estate price has been soaring for years. Apartment price in Shenzhen and Wenzhou, two southern cities famous for their dynamic business environment, can easily reach 30,000 RMB per square meter, or $442 per square foot. Within the fifth ring in Beijing, and in metro-area Shanghai, the price can double to more than 60,000 RMB per square meter, or $900 per square foot.

These cities are the most popular destinations for the young because there are enough job opportunities for them to materialize their Chinese Dreams; but these places are also the most desperate options, because a young married couple with one child need to spend at least half a million U.S. dollars to get a decent apartment unit in the city.

The real-estate price puts huge pressure on the young and their parents, and also indirectly causes more profound problems. For example, it increases labor costs along China’s east coast, which is the destination of most foreign direct investment. Since most unskilled low-cost labor can’t afford the apartments, many move to cheaper provinces in southwest China, such as Sichuan and Hunan. The under-supply of cheap labor in coastal provinces raises its price, but inland provinces are not mature enough in terms of infrastructure and finance for large-scale FDI. This increases the cost, and price, of China’s export, which is extremely vital for the country’s economy.




Photo by Sarah Pringle

王诗文,22,学生:高品质的实习; Shiwen Wang, 22, student: high-quality internship

When Chinese college graduates hunt jobs to fulfill their Chinese Dreams, they need to tell the employers about their work or internship experience. This vital part of a job interview can also be the most embarrassing part for the students, because their answer can easily be “none.”

Chinese college students usually do not have school work during the summer vacation of junior year and the senior year, because they are supposed to have an internship and obtain hands-on experience from what they learned.

However, because most universities do not offer high-quality internship placement, students have to start finding a position during their junior years.

Shiwen Wang, a senior at Shanghai International Studies University, is one of them. Without a recommendation letter from a prominent professor or necessary connection in the city, finding a decent internship, whether it is paid or not, is difficult, Wang said.

“I need to get one as soon as I can,” Wang said, “or the summer will be difficult.”

The number of higher-education institutes in China has grown by 54.8 percent from 1,022 to 2,263 from 2000 to 2010, and more than 60 percent of high-school graduates enroll in universities, according to The New York Times. But Chinese higher education has been blamed to be impractical.

The lack of funding in facilities by local governments restrains the number of high-quality medical or computer-science departments, the graduates of which are in high demand in the workplace.

Also, too many students enroll in business and engineering schools, which are considered “money-making.” This results in the over-supply of inexperienced accountants and engineers in the workplace. This mismatch makes finding an internship, and a full-time job, very hard for students.




Photo by Sarah Pringle

 周名煜,13,学生:iPhone 4S; Mingyu Zhou, 13, student: iPhone 4S

Thirteen-year-old Mingyuan Zhou is a seventh-grade student at a middle school in Shanghai. The most wanted factor in his Chinese Dream is not excellent grades, great athletic skills or a first girlfriend. It is an iPhone 4S.

Apple Inc. earned $7.9 billion from Chinese consumers’ pockets in the fiscal quarter ending March 31, 2012, which is considered “an incredible quarter,” according to Tim Cook, CEO of the company.

The company, based in Cupertino, Calif., is opening more direct outlets in China. It employs 300 people at its second retail outlet on Nanjing East Road, which is Shanghai’s busiest shopping center, and welcomed more than 500 people on the store’s grand opening.

Although an iPhone 4S costs more in China than the U.S. and the 3G network is less prevalent, the smartphone is definitely a chic item for the younger generation. It is almost a fashion symbol.

“It’s a cool thing to have,” Zhou said.

In Beijing and Shanghai, it is easy to find stand-alone stores that specialize in designing and selling iPhone cases and other accessories. The cases can be made of glass, leather or fake crystal beads. Sometimes, a furry bunny doll or even a mirror is attached on the back. Colorful fur balls or cartoon figures are sold just to be plugged into the headphone socket.

“This is for decoration,” the shop assistant said, explaining the purpose of the plug-in.

The fad of getting Apple products shows that Chinese people are getting richer, and are more willing to spend. However, for the less wealthy young, chasing after the fashionable iPhone can cost more than you think. Last year, a teenage girl in China sold one of her kidneys to get an iPhone. This sensational news story started a heated online discussion on why many Chinese young are obsessed with foreign brands, and how Chinese consumers can spend wisely with their bigger wallets.

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