There are always disadvantaged groups of people in every society at any time. Undoubtedly, it is necessary for the public to know about their lives. But it is unrealistic and inane for the government to lend a hand to the disadvantaged before clarifying whether their plight is a result of any injustice from State policy.
The book Yizu (meaning "ant tribe") is an investigation into the lives of college graduates who live in suburban villages of big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Tianjin and Xi'an. They work in various jobs, from selling insurance, delivering goods, and as salespeople. Their income is predictably lower than the average for graduates working in big cities.
With inadequate means of living, they choose to share a house for a monthly rent of 200 or 300 yuan ($29-$44), forming what is called an "ant tribe", the label for hundreds or even thousands of graduates or students who cluster like ants in a single village.
Living conditions are not good and the environment in these villages leaves much to be desired. Burglary happens often. They also have to travel a long way to their work. Making ends meet is what most are working toward every day despite their dream of someday landing a decent job in the big cities.
Of course, we should never spare our sympathy for such young men and women. But we should be level-headed enough to know that their conditions are definitely not a direct result of the injustice from a particular policy. And their situation is in nature different from that of rural villagers who are seeking fortune in urban areas.
They have other ways out. They can go to work in underdeveloped cities where college graduates are needed. They have chosen their simple lives because they cherish the dream of someday landing a decent job in a metropolis. Of course, there is nothing wrong with their choice and they have the right to choose their way of life. There are some whose dreams have come true and they have moved out of their villages.
The situation for migrant rural villagers is different. The overemphasis by the government on industrial development in the three decades from the 1950s to the late 1970s has caused suffering for rural villagers. Their harvests can only be sold to the State and they are not allowed to take on any other jobs.
Now these folks, who are contributing to urban development, are not entitled to the welfare urban residents enjoy simply because they are registered as rural villagers. It is the injustice of the State policy that has denied them from what they are entitled to enjoy. The government, however, has been adjusting its policies to make it easier for them to integrate into the cities where they work.
As this country becomes more and more pluralistic, what we should expect from our government should not just be the help it extends to a particular social group. Instead, it is of more significance for the government to adjust its policies to create a better environment, in which people from all walks of life will have the equal opportunity to compete.
It is even more important for the government to make sure that such policies can be implemented to the letter. Bending of good policies in one way or another in the process of implementation has turned out to be the major source of social injustice.
For example, we have unified examinations for enrolling government employees. But quite a number of local governments do not publish test scores of employees enrolled in a particular department, leaving much room for under-the-table deals.
For those disadvantaged graduates clustering in suburban villages, what they need is equal access to obtain what they want or how they want their careers to develop on their own. If there is anything the government should do for them, it would be to make sure that such access is not blocked by any abuse of power. They can be losers in competitions but they should never regret what they have experienced unless their failure is caused by injustice.