Chunyun: The Real Cost of Going Home

Recently, “chunyun”, or China’s “Spring Festival Migration” has been one of the most popular topics on sina weibo, as the annual Chinese Lunar New Year approaches. According to Wangyi, the 2011 Chinese “chunyun” is the largest human migration in the world, involving 2,853,000,000 person-time moving from urban regions in order to get home before the festival. That’s equal to the total population of Europe, North and South America, Africa and Australia.

One of the hottest topics surrounding “chunyun” is the “hard-to-get” train tickets. Due to the fact that airplane tickets are usually too expensive for migrant workers, most people choose to take the train. However, even though the price for an ordinary train ticket is  affordable for most migrants, he or she usually can’t get one without paying way higher than the regular price.

Obviously, China has a large population. It seems pretty reasonable that people find it difficult to buy train tickets during this period of time. However, is the large population of China the only reason why people can’t get the tickets they want, or get them with a much higher price? Obviously not.

In my opinion, one of the essential problems lies in the train ticket system in China, which is not a real-name registration system. Therefore, everybody can buy many tickets, which leads to the rise of ticket scalping. What’s worse, 37% of people are willing to buy the tickets sold by scalper, according to Wangyi, which makes ticket scalping a hugely profitable business. This is not because that people don’t care about the high price when buying tickets from scalpers, but because they don’t want to take the chance of standing in line for two days but still not being able to get the ticket at the railway station, which does happen a lot of times.

So will the condition of “chunyun” become better in the future? What policies will the government adopt to relieve the pressure of the world’s largest human migration? Let’s wait and see.

About Ka Li

Ka Li is currently a master's student doing Global Communication at USC Annenberg School. She got her Bachelor's degree in English at Beijing Institute of Technology, and the first master's degree in Global Media and Communications at London School of Economics and Political Science.
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