Lessons

Should the Beijing City Government Shut Down the Underground Residences of the Rat Tribe?

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Liu Hao — budding writer, poet, photographer and filmmaker. Image by Sim Chi Yin. China, 2014.

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Zhang Haihai is a 26-year-old chef in a Cantonese restaurant. He shares his 10-square meter room with his girlfriend, a waitress at a restaurant. Image by Sim Chi Yin. Beijing, 2014.

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Liu Jing, 21, sits in her basement apartment in Beijing, China, April 26, 2011. Jing moved to Beijing from the central province of Henan and now works as a pedicurist in east Beijing. Image by Sim Chi Yin. China, 2011.

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Wei Kuan, an insurance salesman, says that he lives in a basement apartment because he wants to save money for other things. He recently bought himself a tailor-made wool suit and hopes to save enough to buy a car. Image by Sim Chi Yin. China, 2014.

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A migrant worker carries her son as she walks through the entrance to a basement hostel in Beijing. Image by Sim Chi Yin. China, August 20, 2011.

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Wei Kuan, an insurance salesman, says that he lives in a basement apartment because he wants to save money for other things. He recently bought himself a tailor-made wool suit and hopes to save enough to buy a car. Image by Sim Chi Yin. China, 2014.

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A resident waits to use the communal bathroom and washing area of a basement hostel on the western outskirts of Beijing. Image by Sim Chi Yin. China, August 20, 2011.

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Master Yan, middle, and his students, Song Zhifei, right, and Li Guoqiang, left, practice the Chinese martial art of Wushu in his basement training room in Beijing. Image by Sim Chi Yin. China, August 20, 2011.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Objective:  Students will be able to identify the push and pull factors of Chinese migrant workers, analyze their living conditions in Beijing, including underground residencies which were formally bomb shelters, and debate whether or not city officials should close the controversial underground housing.

Activator:

  1.  Watch the video, Sim Chi Yin – The Rat Tribe:  Meet the Million Migrant Workers.  Take notes on the answers to the following questions.  Pair-share the answers. 

http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/rat-tribe-beijing

  1.  Who is Zhang Xi?  From where is he from?
  2. What “pushed” him out of his rural home?
  3. What “pulled” him to Beijing?
  4. Why do you think Zhang Xi refused help from his father? 
  5. What motivates him to continue living as part of the Rat Tribe?

 

Introducing the Lesson:

To become familiar with the effects of urbanization and industrialization in China, students will explore the work of two Pulitzer Center reporters: Sim Chi Yin, photographer, and Ian Johnson, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter. 

 

Lesson Format

  1.  Read the Al-Jazeera article found at the link below and answer the questions which follow. 

http://projects.aljazeera.com/2015/01/underground-beijing/

 

 

  1.  What was the estimated population of Beijing in 2013?  What percentage was made up of migrant workers?  (Hint:  You may have to do a little math!). 
  2. Describe the living conditions of members of the migrant “rat tribe” – sanitation, water, kitchen facilities. 
  3. Which events in Chinese history led to the creation of these underground residencies?
  4. What are the advantages of living in these underground residencies?  The disadvantages?
  5. What is an urban hukou? Why is it so important for a migrant to obtain one?
  6. How has the hukou system contributed to the use of underground residencies?
  7. How have Beijing government authorities responded to these underground residencies which house 5% of the city’s residents?  Favorably?  Unfavorably?  Explain.
  8. Pick two members of the Rat Tribe and read their stories.  What do you find most poignant about their stories?   What surprised you most about their stories?

 

  1.  Put students in groups to discuss their answers.  Then, ask the group to debate whether the city government should close down these underground residencies. The group should reach consensus on the issue. 

 

  1.  After the groups debate, each group reports out on their conclusions.

 

Homework:   

1.    Students read the following Economist article:  Moving on up:  The government unveils a new “people-centered” plan for urbanization and The Great Transition

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21599360-government-right-reform-hukou-system-it-needs-be-braver-great

 

  1.  In several well-developed paragraphs, critique the Chinese government’s plans for future urbanization including whether the plans address the housing crisis, the hukou system and other issues of migration.  
Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Objective:  Students will be able to identify the push and pull factors of Chinese migrant workers, analyze their living conditions in Beijing, including underground residencies which were formally bomb shelters, and debate whether or not city officials should close the controversial underground housing.

Activator:

  1.  Watch the video, Sim Chi Yin – The Rat Tribe:  Meet the Million Migrant Workers.  Take notes on the answers to the following questions.  Pair-share the answers. 

http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/rat-tribe-beijing

  1.  Who is Zhang Xi?  From where is he from?
  2. What “pushed” him out of his rural home?
  3. What “pulled” him to Beijing?
  4. Why do you think Zhang Xi refused help from his father? 
  5. What motivates him to continue living as part of the Rat Tribe?

 

Introducing the Lesson:

To become familiar with the effects of urbanization and industrialization in China, students will explore the work of two Pulitzer Center reporters: Sim Chi Yin, photographer, and Ian Johnson, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter. 

 

Lesson Format

  1.  Read the Al-Jazeera article found at the link below and answer the questions which follow. 

http://projects.aljazeera.com/2015/01/underground-beijing/

 

 

  1.  What was the estimated population of Beijing in 2013?  What percentage was made up of migrant workers?  (Hint:  You may have to do a little math!). 
  2. Describe the living conditions of members of the migrant “rat tribe” – sanitation, water, kitchen facilities. 
  3. Which events in Chinese history led to the creation of these underground residencies?
  4. What are the advantages of living in these underground residencies?  The disadvantages?
  5. What is an urban hukou? Why is it so important for a migrant to obtain one?
  6. How has the hukou system contributed to the use of underground residencies?
  7. How have Beijing government authorities responded to these underground residencies which house 5% of the city’s residents?  Favorably?  Unfavorably?  Explain.
  8. Pick two members of the Rat Tribe and read their stories.  What do you find most poignant about their stories?   What surprised you most about their stories?

 

  1.  Put students in groups to discuss their answers.  Then ask the group to debate whether the city government should close down these underground residencies. The group should reach consensus on the issue. 

 

  1.  After the groups debate, each group reports out on their conclusions.

Homework:   

1.    Students read the following Economist article:  Moving on up:  The government unveils a new “people-centered” plan for urbanization and The Great Transition

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21599360-government-right-reform-hukou-system-it-needs-be-braver-great

 

  1.  In several well-developed paragraphs, critique the Chinese government’s plans for future urbanization including whether the plans address the housing crisis, the hukou system and other issues of migration.  

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