2 days ago, I saw a book review on YouTube by Taiwan 陆配，上官乱。She was talking about a book by her 四川同乡，exiled activist 廖亦武。A story in the book reminded me of my personal experience.
I used to ride on motorised trishaws in Kunming. They were much cheaper and the drivers were simple folks who didn’t have as many tricks as the licensed taxi drivers. When I wanted to deposit my backpack and go shopping, they would bring me to a bus station with an enormous left luggage facility. When I needed a shower after a long bus ride without checking into a hotel room, they would bring me to a heated swimming pool. If I had asked a licensed taxi driver for recommendations, he would probably bring me on a round city ride and ask for the metered fair.
Once, we were caught near the airport by a traffic policeman. I was let off but the poor driver, probably around my younger son’s current age, had his vehicle impounded. I felt sad for the young man, but I couldn’t do anything.
Back to the book. Mr Liao wrote about what happened to these trishaws after they were impounded from the streets of Chengdu. Yes, when these drivers are looking for a used trishaw to start their trade again, they recognise their impounded vehicles in the “showroom”. They pay for the vehicle and if it gets impounded by the authorities again, they would have to keep paying for it. The blood sucking cycle goes on.
That’s why sometimes we see dramatic video footage from the streets with these illegal drivers going berserk, needing 6 城管 to pin them to the ground. They just can’t stand all this torment and humiliation anymore. That’s the life of the 底层老百姓。We’ll never know how many people China actually lifted out of poverty. We can, however, be sure that only the lucky ones are seen and heard. According to Wanda’s 王思聪, 100 million people in China don’t know what the inside of a plane looks like. China’s economic miracle is to a large extent, attributable to 人血馒头.
Most of us are descendents of 底层老百姓. Growing up in a relatively free and meritocratic country, we have attained middle class or at least a respectable working class standard of living. Yet, there are folks who suck up to a system which might have trapped them as 底层老百姓 if their forefathers had never left China. They optimistically assume that they would not be one of the 100 million.