Today, I walked the village named Baishizhou, which is located south of Shennan Road and is not scheduled for demolition. This other, lesser known Baishizhou is tucked away behind Window of the World, middling housing estates, and the KK Banna Mall. Unlike the Baishizhou that is scheduled for demolition, this other, less expensive Baishizhou does not hum and pop, does not buzz with entrepreneurialism and the rush of young office workers, but rather transports us back to Shenzhen 2.0; at the turn of the millennium, most Shenzhen neighborhoods were like this: straight-forwardly residential in the middle with an outer ring of functional shops and fast food, and hardware stores that spilled into the street because the sidewalk had not yet been laid down.
Here’s the rub. When they demolished Gangxia (2009-2011), many people moved to the northern section of Baishizhou, while others found housing in villages in Bao’an and Longhua. The exodus was annoying, but relatively anxiety free; there would always be another urban village the thinking went. But common sense is no longer so optimistic. A friend who lives in Baishilong reports that his six-year old neighbor has been asking when they will have to leave. Meanwhile, young creatives who have rented studios in Wutongshan are wondering if they need to find more permanent digs and if so, does this mean abandoning the city to pursue their dreams elsewhere? These reports are from two different classes of migrant–rural migrants who have set up homes in the villages and urban migrants who have come to Shenzhen to pursue professional dreams, suggesting the extent to which housing anxiety now permeates everyday life in the city of China dreams.
Indeed, it is clear that although young migrants (high school and college graduates) come to Shenzhen and figure out how to make ends meet, by the time it is time to set up house and raise a family, they face hard choices. To stay or not to stay? And at what cost?
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