There was one stipulation with me moving to China for a few months. We weren’t going to live in a big city and we were going to live among the locals and experience everyday life as they do. Longyan is a medium-sized city in the Fujian Province of China and it is growing at a record pace, the tradition rich communities are paying the price for its growth.
Longyan is about a 45 minute bullet train ride from Xiamen, which is one of the fastest growing cities in China. Housing prices in Xiamen are compared to New York and with limited space for new development a lot of locals are being priced out of their own market and fleeing to the small sister city of Longyan. Five years ago you could buy a 1000 sq ft apt in Longyan for around $40,000, now, 2016, you can buy the same apt for nearly $150,000. Developments are everywhere. Each development trying to “Americanize” life in China with large playgrounds, soccer fields and golf courses. They are all guard gated and need numerous gadgets to get through all the gates.
It’s a double-edged sword for a lot of these village home owners. In China, which goes back to its communist roots, nobody owns any land. The land is owned 100% by the government. Back in the day you could stake your piece of land wherever you wanted, build what you wanted and grow what you wanted, but in the back of your mind homeowners knew that it could all be taken away with the crack of a whip. Today China is changing. In exchange for their land and homes (which the people never owned anyway) the government will give them homes or apt’s elsewhere to compensate for their loss. While some negotiation does exist, it’s basically a “you get what you get and do don’t throw a fit” mentality. (Having said this my wife showed me an article in the paper that an older couple drank fertilizer water, and tried to poison themselves, to show their disgust for how they were being forced to leave their village) The government decides what your home is worth and they give you equal value in a newer community. Sometimes the community is miles away and other times just next door. Often times you go from a 3000 sq foot home to a 700 new apt, that has all the modern luxuries that most of these people could care less about.
We recently rented an apt that is right in the middle of a new development. Walking down the streets my heart is torn. Home after home having been abandoned waiting for the next tear down phase, local stores and farmers trying to stay in business while cement trucks and bulldozers drive by. Centuries of traditions are now being pushed to the side by enormous equipment and old couples have nothing to do but sit and watch. They will be compensated, but who knows how fairly.
This summer we will go back to the states and plan next winters trip to China. In making those plans I will plea with my wife that we live in rural, China. By the way things are changing here I am not sure how much longer “rural China” will be around. The rapid pace at which things are growing leave my heart torn. Millionaires are being made everyday, but at the same time years and years of tradition are being piled up and taken to the landfill. China’s growth is breaking my heart.
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