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The Noughty Nineties by Hatty Liu
How many years of avocado toast abstinence does it take to buy an apartment in Shanghai? In a 60 Minutes interview last May, Australian property tycoon Tim Gurner opined that middle-class indulgences like artisanal snacks and lattes were all that stood between today’s young adults and their first home purchase. As the multimillionaire’s tirade birthed a million memes, a Twitter user quickly figured out that daily avo-toast avoidance would earn him a “bad house” in Los Angeles in 642 years.
But while avocado-based dishes are only beginning to enter Chinese consumers’ orbits—imports of the fruit grew 16,000 percent between 2012-2016—millennials have long been feeling the squeeze of stagnating incomes and rising living expenses. In 20 of China’s major cities, the housing price-to-income ratio has risen well above 10:1. Beijing (26.08), Shanghai (25.48), Shenzhen (32.44), Hangzhou (13.43), and Nanjing (12.36) are among the least affordable cities in the world. Dai Weijie, a Shanghai college graduate born in 1993, estimates that at his current salary
From the northwestern suburbs to the east Fifth Ring Road, empty sidewalks and abandoned homes by day give way to bustling street markets at night. Furniture-movers and scavengers alike roam the alleyways; destruction and demolition are juxtaposed with scenes from life. As Beijing aspires to rise from the ashes a grander and more beautiful metropolis, its resilient migrants are trying to eke out their own rebirth in the rubble—with the bare minimum they are left with, as long as they can.