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Asian Migration and Global Cities

Anne Cong-Huyen, Jonathan Young Banfill, Katherine Herrera, Samantha Ching, Natalie Yip, Thania Lucero, Randy Mai, Candice Lau, Authors

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Migrant Children in the Rubble

On a winter’s day during spring festival I venture out to a just open subway line, running south from Beijing’s West Railway station into the suburbs of Fengtai district. The city is empty, with much of the population back in their hometowns for holiday, a kind of proof that this is a city of migrants, and the sleek new subway stations and subway cars barely have any passengers. Towards the southern end of the line there is an interesting named station, something technical and futuristic like “such and such Science Park”, and it seems like it might be an interesting station to investigate.

We emerge from the tunnel, only to find that it isn’t in a developed science park at all, but instead among a field of rubble, demolished structures and bricks and trash from whatever was here before. There are no people at all. The winter wind whips through the empty desolate place.

Suddenly two children emerge, perhaps 5 or 6. They are playing with broken glass. We ask them “where are you from?”. They don't seem to know how to respond. My friend continues the line of questioning. They don’t answer, seemingly not understanding. He slows down his speech and they understand a bit, responding in highly accented mandarin. They are from another province, most likely the children of the construction that is going on.

But most migrant workers are home now. We look around and see construction sites, silent in the fading afternoon sun. We walk into some of them. Empty dormitories and equipment. We walk over to the where the science park is. . . futuristic looking buildings that are uninhabited and covered in dust. A pack of wild dogs walk down the empty street. . . a street to be inhabited in the future, but not yet. . . and seeming like some post-apocalypse where everyone has vanished.

For a moment, we are explorers on an alien planet, only filled with children, wild dogs, and empty monuments to a city long abandoned.
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