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Urbanization Changes Chinese Rural Family Life

When the clock strikes six, Wang Shuhong leaves home for exercise in a park, while her lodgers, a middle-aged Korean couple, are doing housework for her. This has been her morning routine over the past two months.


Wang, who lives in Cheng Village of Xiqing District in north China's Tianjin Municipality, said, "I feel my life is no longer idled away."


Her husband is a self-employed driver for project transportation in some other places. He has made a pile of at one million yuan (about US$123,450) so far.


Their son also makes a decent livelihood by running a store in the village, selling tap water and heating facilities.


Like Wang, many housewives in the village choose to let their apartments out and do housekeeping as well.


As the land is shared by more and more residents, the farmers who live in the outskirts of big cities have broken away from conventional modes of life and production.


As a result, their household life is increasingly commercialized, and a new relationship between family members is created.


Wang said, a considerable number of young farmers in her village take up long-distance transportation as their job.


In her neighborhood, for instance, there are 1,300 excavators and steamrollers. Some households have increased their real estates to millions of US dollars and expanded their business all over the country.


With the rapid urbanizing process, the gap between suburbs and downtown areas has been narrowed.


In Wang's village, the migrant population has outnumbered the locals by one third. Among the lodgers there, 200 are foreigners.


The farmers have seen more mixed neighbors now, foreigners, migrant workers and those city dwellers who prefer the rural comfortable environment.


With different languages and complexions, these new dwellers create a unique "international village" in the city's outskirts.


"Our village is not far from downtown, so we would like to invest in real estate since we have more money at our disposal now," said Wang.


"Most of the villagers have at least two apartments. The housewives usually rent the extra rooms out and work as a housemaid for their lodgers. In this way, our life is occupied," she said, adding that they are unwilling to be full-time housewives.


Most of the young locals work in downtown companies or run businesses themselves. They like to enjoy the peaceful and pleasant life in the countryside.


"These alternative Chinese farmers live in the overlaps of city and countryside and kick off conventional agriculture gradually," an sociologist analyzed as such.


This unique residential environment forms their dual character, which is a combination of farmers' hardworking and naivety as well as bussinessmen's shrewdness, according to the expert.


Compared to traditional farmers, they enjoy more space and freedom in production, he said.


(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2005)


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