The internet gives birth to numerous newly emerged names and phrases; one of them that is of particular discussion is the “ant tribe” – the fourth largest disadvantaged groups in China.
In Gospel Operation International latest periodical, an article titled “Gospel Needs of Ant Tribe” explored the context and gospel needs of this particular groups of people. Through first-hand accounts from Christians visiting the places where these “ant tribe” youths live, a better understanding of the gospel needs was illustrated.
Mostly born after the 80s, the army of college-graduates who were supposed to be filled with hopes and dreams for their future is actually suffering from the standardizing of higher education and changes in the labor market. With low paying salaries, Chinese youths try to resist the rising rental rates and have chosen to crowd together in communal living, which earned them the name “ant tribe”. Their high intellect, vulnerabilities, group livings are similar to the characteristics of ants.
Most of these “ant tribe” youths don’t have life insurance, housing, nor medical insurance. According to 2010 Blue of Chinese Talents, there are at least 100,000 people who belong to this category in Beijing alone. In other major metropolitan cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, and Chonqing, it is estimated that there are millions more. The writer estimates that there should be 30 times more “ant tribe” in Beijing alone as many lived dispersed across the vast city.
In Kunming, a city of relatively slower pace and less pressure than that of Beijing and Shanghai, “ant tribes” were forced to leave and move to farther out skirts of the city to avoid the rising rental fees as a result of recent reconstruction plans in these developing cities.
“Our generation is all like this: after entering college, the value of college student drops; after entering graduate school, the value of graduate studies is devalued. I work hard every day, but I earn barely enough to cover my living expenses. My parents are getting old, but I am powerless to support them….,” shared a fellow “ant tribe’ who holds a master’s degree.
Another “ant tribe” youth shared of his experience of working for free twice for animation production companies in hopes of signing a working contract, but both times his “internship” terminated prematurely because his design team was dissolved, leaving him with no compensation at all. He said that he is not even worth to be considered as an “ant tribe”, because he earns less than 1,200 RMB. He currently lives together with his parents and grand-parents. His father is a worker with minimal salary and his grandparents’ retirement fund has been the only source of stable income for their family of five. His wish is to have a job that pays him 1,000 RMB per month and to share an apartment rent with others, so he wouldn’t be a burden to his parents. The lowly regarded “ant tribe” has ironically become this youth’s small dream.
During Christmas of 2009, a church in Beijing has passed out invitation flyers to their Christmas gathering to the “ant tribes” living there. After going from door to door knocking in the local community apartment, about 100 invitation flyers were passed out. They’ve discovered that most people in that neighborhood did not know each other, but were rather closed off from others. In addition, none of those who received the flyers were Christians.
The author wrote, “From this, the distance between men is no longer simply the distance in time and space, but the distance between groups and individuals.”
That night, around 10 people went to that church’s Christmas gathering and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. In the following gospel gatherings, the church members saw the thirst of the “ant tribe” for the good news of Jesus Christ.
The author concluded by saying that the “ant tribe” is the new mission target that has yet been pioneered; their thirst for the gospel is the same as that of the migrant workers in the 80s and 90s. Thus, he believes that the churches in the cities must reconsider the new mission strategies and win this special group.
[Editor's note: reporter Sharon Chan contributed to the report.]