Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Beijing in Transition: The MinGong: A Photographic Essay

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Beijing in Transition: The MinGong: A Photographic Essay

Article excerpt

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MinGong (...) is a term for farmers who leave their homes in rural China to look for work in cities. The term has been accepted in China since the 1990s. The term 'migrant workers' is perhaps more usual in English, but I feel that 'farm-worker' is more relevant to those actually involved. Among the popular places for the MinGong to seek urban employment opportunities are construction sites, factories and service industries. However, the MinGong find work (both casual and regular) in all sorts of places and employment sectors, and in all types of work that can bring them money. Once a year, especially at the Chinese New Year, they return to their rural homes and meet their families once more.

The working conditions of the MinGong in the city would certainly not meet European labour rules, and their quality of life in the city is poorer than their quality of life at home. But as long as they see opportunities to earn 'a lot' (in their terms) of money in the city, they will accept the miseries of urban life. They know that they have little hope of earning as much on their limited areas of farmland at home.

The urban landscape of Beijing is changing dramatically today. Buildings from the 1960s, the 1970s and even the 1980s are demolished daily in order to allow for the construction of shopping malls, offices and modern residences for the rapidly growing Chinese middle class. The pace of change has been accelerated by the preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games and the character, pace of life and spirit of the city are being transformed. …

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