May 16, 2013
兩種貧民窟都是國家默許的。政府對此睜一隻眼閉一隻眼，因 為中國這場震撼人心的城市化進程需要大量農民工充當廉價勞動力。一旦某個貧民窟變得太礙眼，政府就直接把它拆掉，把地賣給房地產開發商，強迫民工繼續往城 外尋找住處。在剛過東四環的地方有一座外觀氣派的高層住宅樓，門口站着保安，大廈正對面就是一個叫辛庄的城中村。在這裡的簡陋水泥房或磚房裡，一個房間可 以住進整整一家子人。這裡沒有淋浴或廚房，一棟建築物只有一個共用的水槽，狹窄的走廊里擺着幾個電爐，到處是低垂的電線。外面是腐臭的垃圾。居民用的是戶 外廁所：一條條連通的開放式排水溝，沒有隔斷，到了炎熱的夏天會滋生大批的蒼蠅。
25歲的張凱（音譯）是一名餐館服務員，每個月收入大約 300美元（合1844元人民幣），花40美元（合246元）和人合租着一個小房間。他用手頭的閑錢偶爾可以上一下網吧，去一些著名景點玩，比如頤和園和 鳥巢。在辛庄，他只能在一條臭水溝邊洗衣服，但是在這個貧民窟里的生活還是要比他在山東東部的農村老家強。看着周圍灰塵漫天的街道，他說：「多虧了有這個 村，民工不用被逼着搬到五環外更遠的地方。」
北京的這些貧民窟之所以能夠維持現狀，靠的正是這種社會地 位變化的承諾。他們不像印度貧民窟的居民那麼貧窮或疾病橫行。這裡的多數民工能找到工作。很少有嚴重的犯罪。外地人湊到一起，營造出一種鮮明的社區感。所 以連生活在貧民窟的人都是樂觀的——至少，只要生活條件一直在改善就行，就像過去三十年那樣。
Beijing does have slums, however — only they are mostly hidden from view and, despite bleak living conditions, many of their residents are surprisingly hopeful.
Some communities of slum dwellers are called “rat tribes” because they live in damp, dark rooms located in one-time air-raid shelters and basements. Other migrant workers live in former villages that have been engulfed by the ever-expanding capital. (The state media’s euphemism for these is “villages inside cities.”)
Both types of slums are tolerated by the state. The government turns a blind eye because it needs a large migrant workforce to provide the cheap manpower behind China’s astonishing urbanization. Whenever the slums become an eyesore it simply tears them down and sells the land for development, forcing migrants to look further afield for housing.In the eastern part of the city, just past the Fourth Ring Road, opposite a smart high-rise residential unit with a guard at the gate is the village-inside-the-city of Xinzhuang. Here, whole families cram into single rooms in makeshift concrete or brick structures. There are no showers or kitchens. In one building, just one public sink and a couple of hot plates are located down a poky corridor with low-slung electric wires. Rubbish putrefies outside. Residents use outdoor toilets: communal open troughs with no partitions that are infested with flies during the oppressively hot summer months.
Migrants without a Beijing hukou, or official household registration, have limited access to social benefits like health care and education. This leads many of the poorer ones to leave their children behind in their hometowns. Others make compromises: One family I talked to in Xinzhuang last week could not afford to pay the annual $1,600 fees to educate their small son. For now, the boy is going without schooling.
And yet, during my recent visit, the overriding feeling I encountered was optimism.
Zhang Kai, a 25-year-old waiter who earns roughly $300 a month, spends $40 on renting a small shared room. He has enough spare cash to occasionally go to Internet cafes and visit some famous sights, like the Summer Palace and the Bird’s Nest. In Xinzhuang, he has to wash his clothes next to a fetid canal, but life is still better in this slum than in his home village in eastern Shandong province. Looking around the dusty street, he said: “Thank God there is this village so that migrants aren’t forced to move too far outside the Fifth Ring Road.”
One neighbor, a 53-year-old migrant vendor who goes by the surname Zhu, has lived here for 18 years and earned enough money from selling 16-cent ice creams in a roadside store to send all three of his children to university. They are studying graphic design, electronics and economics.
The promise of such social change has kept Beijing’s slums contained. They are not as poor or disease-ridden as those in India. Here, most migrants can find work. Serious crime is rare. Outsiders club together, creating a palpable sense of community. And so even slum dwellers seem upbeat — at least as long as living conditions keep improving, as they have in China over the last three decades.
Can this last? In “China’s Urban Billion” Tom Miller warns that without a reform of the hukou system and the development of affordable mass housing, by 2030 almost half of the one billion Chinese who live in cities will belong to a “giant underclass.” Were that to happen China’s slums might go from being places of aspiration to cauldrons of discontent.