Ant Tribes in China: Implication in Flatten World?

New graduates in Beijing described as "ant tribes"

BEIJING: Young and eager new graduates trying to make a living in the suburbs of Beijing, have recently been described by a Chinese sociologist as "yi zhu" or ant tribes.

Academic Lian Si, who has spent two years interviewing 600 young graduates, found them to be hardworking and intelligent, but vulnerable and living in groups.

Young office workers begin their long journey from the outskirts of Beijing at around six in the morning. Every day, they spend three to four hours commuting to the city, and struggle to make ends meet.

Their choices of accommodation are tiny apartments located in the suburbs, where rental is significantly lower. In a neighborhood in Tangjialing, a small room goes for about 400 to 500 yuan, or about US$100 a month.

The report says Beijing alone has 100,000 “ants tribes”, and total 1 million young people are living in this condition.

I scanned some other news about them, and many of them are concerned how these young people are time bomb. In Chinese history, they say it was often frustrated educated young people who turn against authority. Man, that is bad news for Chinese government.

But I also see this as possible threat to neighboring countries. Some will naturally see them as cheap intellectual labor. World is flatter than ever. These young people might not be the brightest, but they are ambitious, well-educated and hard-working young workers. They are familiar with computers and all that. If they can handle language barrier, I don’t see any reason why companies in neighboring countries, like Korea or Japan, won’t come in and use this cheaper intellectuals instead of their own. There are certain areas of intellectual work that does not require much native language skill. Even in my industry, I can think some.

Speaking of my industry, there are increasing “threat” from outside, especially China. More and more people start buying products directly from China and Japanese companies are losing money.

Chinese products might not be the best quality, but not worst kind any more. It is getting reasonably higher quality day by day. As far as I know, the only thing Japanese government or top people in my industry are doing now is this; create more regulation. I believe that is the case in most industry here. They only think about building higher wall. The wall is not going to hold forever, plus, it is just putting more pressure on domestic business. Current low performance of Japanese business is, in larger part than most imagine, due to these regulations.

I recently heard that when Japanese traders show up in some booth at trade show, foreign companies don’t really care about us any more. Many of them now believe going into Japanese market is not going to work. Because of our unique and strong regulation, it takes lots of time and money, and they are tired of even trying now. It may “protect” Japanese business in some way, but what about end-user? How about long term implication?

OK, enough complaining… so, are there any cure for us? I don’t know really. Maybe offense is best defense. Maybe being more open is the key. Should give it more thought…

By the way, I really feel bad about those young Chinese people. I could be one of them. I hope flatten world will show them some light and future.