China: 'Ant Tribes' Face Eviction from Colonies

ant colony.jpgAs if it was not hard enough to get ahead in the world as a young and inexperienced college graduate in modern China, the Ant Tribes of China are now faced with new government regulations to evict them from their 'colonies' too.

Already modest one or two bedroom apartments that have been partitioned into a series of 25-35 cubic foot 'capsule apartments' are a common first residence for many new urban immigrations all over China and are known as colonies. 

If you are a Chinese university graduate born in the 1980's, working an unstable job that pays less than RMB 2,000 per month, living in a shared RMB 350 apartment and spending over two hours a day travelling to and from work, then you are officially an "ant."  Welcome to the ant tribe.

"Ant Tribe," is also a recently published anthropology book that's making waves.  It describes China’s post-‘80s generation: university graduates from rural China who dream of a better life in big cities but struggle with low-paying jobs and poor living standards.  The book is the result of two years of work by Lian Si, Assistant Professor of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE).

The new rulings, which do not prohibit sharing apartments, something we are familiar with in the West, but do prohibit partitioning off each bedroom into four to six capsule apartments where residents live, sleep, cook, etc.  Also prohibited are renting the apartment kitchens, balconies and hallways for capsule living.  Real estate agents and owners of ant colony apartments are not impressed with the regulations and presume that because there is no enforcement possible across the many millions who live under such conditions in China that the law is wasted paper at best.

According to Lian Si, this is one time where China's legal development goes farther than the realities of housing the multitudes of millions flooding into the cities makes reasonable.  

It is hard to describe, without showing those of you that do not live here, what kinds of social pressure creates and is bred among such phenomenon as Ant Tribes but this is a rich vs poor framework that might end up making the 1960's in the USA look tame in comparison.

We are also trying to find an English language version of Ant Tribe for anyone out there interested.  And if we can not find one, we'll translate and distribute one ourselves.