When Dadi visited the family, Zhiguo's wife fell silent when asked about their wedding banquet, because they could not afford one. Zhiguo's father gave his
life savings of 70,000 RMB to help with the down payment, and now expected Zhiguo, a young man in his early twenties with a shaky job, to
financially support the entire family.
A yuppie dream, deferred: Yuanzi
Yuanzi was a smart young man from a family of blue-collar workers from a small city. He also did not get an offer from the bank, but easily found a sales
job that paid well. He married his girlfriend, also from a humble background, right after graduating from college. His family gave him more than 100,000
RMB, all of their life savings, as a down payment on an apartment.
Once Yuanzi had a job and an apartment with his wife in the big city, his parents and in-laws pressured the young couple to start a family. Yuanzi's wife
quit her job after she became pregnant, so they relied solely on Yuanzi's income to pay the mortgage, hospital bill, utility bills, and the baby's formula
and diapers. Yuanzi's salary soon fell short of their ever-growing list of expenses.
Yuanzi's parents and in-laws rotated for live-in stints to take care of the baby while his wife took a low-paying job. Conflicts over laundry and
dish-washing began to escalate into inter-generational shouting matches about the lack of money. On the phone with a fellow former intern, Yuanzi broke
down in tears and said that marrying too early and having a baby was a mistake.
Social mobility: the Chinese dream?
The moral of his stories, wrote Dadi, was that young people should not engage in the Quixotic battle against fate to rise too far above their class in
today's China. One's background means more than just the level of financial support from family; it also determines one's outlook, and even personality.
Dadi's advice? Know your capabilities and limitations, listen to your parents (if they are successful), don't try reach for the stars if you are starting
from a low point, and don't forget to marry wisely.
Many users agreed with Dadi's pessimistic fatalism and related their own struggles in a society with no shortage of people like Chubby and Zhou, who are
shrewd and likable as well as connected. China's era of rags-to-riches stories may have already given away to an era of class entrenchment.
Some users allowed a glimmer of hope. @信息处理器 wrote, "I know every wealthy family is built on the accumulation of resources of the fathers and grandfathers,
but maybe I can make my children a little bit better off than I am. Who knows, maybe my grandchildren or their children would also become wealthy?" It is
perhaps telling, however, that he ended the sentence with a question mark.
This post first appeared at Tea Leaf Nation, an Atlantic partner site.