Discontent but confident
Nearly 60 percent of the respondents to the 2010 survey attributed their hardship to social circumstances rather than to personal factors, Lian said. Only 18.9 percent said society was fair.
Lian's research team found more than 70 percent of the respondents were from mediocre or poor families with annual incomes less than 50,000 yuan ($7,692).
Analysis of Lian's research team reveals the respondents' feeling of fairness is strongly related with economic conditions of their families and their monthly income. Those with better economic conditions and higher monthly income are more positive about the state of society.
The respondents ranked "power, family background and social stratification" as the three major causes of social inequality. They expressed very strong dissatisfaction with corruption and inheritance of social resources.
"Now, not only wealth can be inherited, but also power," said Lian. The survey respondents felt it very unfair that children of some government officials could find good jobs through their parents' connections or even had stable and highly-paid civil service jobs reserved for them.
Although 80 percent of the respondents to the 2010 survey admitted currently they were not yet in the middle class, half of them did not think they were a vulnerable group.
"Many of them have great expectations about the future, and are very self-confident," said Lian. "They hold on to their dreams, which has helped them get over the difficulties they have encountered in large cities."
In a letter allegedly from the "ants" in Tangjialing to Lian Si and the media that appeared online around March 2010, they said, "We are neither weak nor poor. Our current situation is but only one stage in our lives!"
Goodbye to Tangjialing
Tangjialing looked desolated on January 30, a sunny and cold day about two years after Deng celebrated the Spring Festival alone in Beijing in 2009.
Debris about two to three meters thick covered most of the ground, like the scene of a devastating earthquake. Only a few bungalows including a pharmaceutical store were still standing.
It was bizarrely quiet, except for the sound of a hammer striking bricks, which was produced by a man standing in the middle of the debris. Except for him, only one other person on a bike and a dog can be seen.
The person on the bike, surnamed Liang, is a villager of Tangjialing. He said almost all the villagers and renters had already moved away because of an imminent renovation of the village.
Tangjialing lies only minutes from Shangdi, the northern part of China's "silicon valley." The village, originally with a population of 3,000, once accommodated 50,000 people because of the influx of outsiders.
After the publishing of Ant Tribe, journalists flocked to the village. Media coverage also prompted the government to take action.
In October 2009, Tangjialing Villagers' Committee submitted a report to the Beijing Municipal Government, requesting support for its reconstruction.
In March 2010, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning announced Tangjialing would be renovated. Since then, "ants" have gradually moved out of Tangjialing to neighboring villages or other places.
Lian told China Youth Daily, according to the government's plan, in the future, villagers would move back to Tangjialing into buildings constructed for them and some land was also reserved for the village to develop industries, while apartments for rent at reasonable prices would be built for white-collar renters.
Many "ants", nonetheless, left Tang-jialing reluctantly. In their letter to Lian and the media, they expressed their worry about whether the white-collar apartments to be built in Tangjialing would be affordable.
China's Central Government and the Beijing Municipal Government have stepped up the construction of low-rent apartments for low-income people.
"The existence of "ant tribe" is not only a housing issue; it involves many social issues, such as education reform, urban and rural disparity and urban governance," said Lian. "It will take a long time to solve the problems giving rise to the 'ant tribe.'"