A journey to home preludes most people's Spring festival. It usually starts a few days before the Chinese New Year eve. And when they are to say goodbye to their families, the short holiday will end with another journey back to a place far away from home.
The Spring Festival Travel, or Chunyun, is the largest annual human migration that carries over 2 billion passengers every year, in a short time not exceeding 40 days. This year the New Year is on Jan 26. 15 days before that Chunyun kicked off; today, 31, Jan, the return journey begins.
The spectacular movement, with waves of humanity crowded in rail stations, airports, and roads, is driven by the core value of the festival, that is, family reunion.
The rapid but in some sense distorted urbanization in China highlights the meaning of family reunion. As many as 200 million labor from rural areas are working in cities, while leaving the entire family behind to earn a better life in a place foreign to them. Spring Festival, to most of them, is the only chance to see their beloved families again because of the high cost of going home.
One of the side effects is the unparalleled difficulty to get home. The carrying capacity falls behind the surging demand. On the other hand, the monopolized, state-controlled railway is routinely under vehement critiques every year. Because of the strong demand and restricted price, ticket scalpers flourished. Clerks in booking offices, meanwhile, is thought by many as the major culprit in complicity with the ticket dealers to drive up the ticket price. If a survey is conducted, I bet it is among the most unpopular careers in China.
In Beijing, a ticket clerk, who issued tickets from machine but didn't sell them to passengers, and instead, put them aside regardless of the long queue waiting, was shot by cellphone, the video uploaded to the internet soon. People doubt the ticket are preserved for scalpers. Thousands of people, with strong sympathy, joined the condemnation of the clerk.
楚天阁 in Tianya said:
The clerk is only one epitome of the entire interest group, the Ministry of Railways, which operates all the railways in China, called by people “railway big brother.” Blogger Zhu Weidong points out the absurdity of the railway monopoly, which he thinks is not understandable at all:
However, would monopoly brings it more benefit and better service?
The fact goes the opposite way. The railway system is routinely in the red. Then how is the service? Well, even worse than government offices, which are hard to get in, difficult to have things done, and often greeting you with a cold face.
A post cited by the official media Xinhua, named “unobtainable tickets tell all about urbanization“, analyzed the underlying cause of the hardship of getting home. In the blogger Den Yu-wen's view, making transportation better is not as good as making cities the real home for migrant workers.
The status quo is that migrant workers don't enjoy as comprehensive social security as that of the urban citizens. It is not that cities are their mines to find bonanza, but that they are cheap tools for cities to use for exploitation.
Besides the institutional discrimination against the migrant labor, the writer further points out:
Blogger Willings (驿动的心) wrote a touching post to conclude that, “you'll understand today's China as long as you understand Chunyun (Spring Travel).”
Choice B: overpriced ticket
Choice C: fake tickets
And D: Don't go home
Poor Chinese people! You have been suffering so much so long. When can you realize the cause of your sufferings?
2,000,000,000 Chinese who only have the chance to go and see their families once a year. Although they endure many hardships to get a train ticket on one of the dangerously overcrowded trains, they might not even be able to get one as many can not afford the inflated prices, thus having to wait for another year in agony to see their loved ones.
Here we have a perfect example of the enslavement by Big Business of much of the country’s own population.
correction; 200,000,000 Chinese