“人太多“ – Ren Tai Duo – is an idiom one is accustomed to hearing in China. It literally means “Too Many People” but its sub-context implies to a feeling of frustration expressed by a person who lives in the most populated country in the world.
The fact that China is the most populated country in the world effects the way of life in many different aspects. Be it privacy, competition in the job market or driving in a major city crowded streets, “Too Many People” impact everyday life in China in a way that is unfamiliar to the western world.
Consider this: The size of China is roughly the size of the United States (3.7 million square miles). Its population is estimated at 1.32 billion people, while the population of the United States is estimated at approximately 310 million people. Therefore, in China, there are currently more than four times the people than there are in America. The population of China is the equivalent to the populations of the United States, France, The United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Italy, South Korea and Japan combined.
With Too Many People in China, the expectations citizens have towards their country are different from those of citizens of western countries. China needs to take care of its population by making sure it is well-fed and well-clothed. As China is growing economically, it wants to insure that each and every citizen can access education, can hold a decent job and can retire respectfully. The challenge is onerous, and no other nation in history has had to face such conditions.
The Consequences of having “Too Many People”:
Competition in the job market is fierce. According to the New York Times in an article published about the competitive college graduate job market situation: “In 1999, the government began a push to expand college education — once considered a golden ticket — to produce more professionals to meet the demands of globalization. This year, more than 6.3 million graduates will enter the job market, up from one million in 1999. But the number of high-skilled, high-paying jobs has not kept pace.” This means that it is much more difficult today to find a job than it was 10 years ago. The competition expresses itself not only by the ability of recent graduates to find a job, but also in the salaries of already graduated students. According to statistics published last month by a top Chinese labor researcher and reported by the Beijing Times: “Despite entering a robust economy that seemed to weather the financial crisis as if were it a middling squall, China’s college graduates on average make only 300 yuan, or roughly $44, more per month than the average Chinese migrant worker.” This phenomenon is caused because of too many people that are qualified for certain jobs. When more people are qualified for a limited number of positions, salaries decrease.
In addition, with a population of 1.32 billion people, one must consider the effects on individualism in such a society. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, individualism is defined as: “a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests.” It is no secret that political independence of the individual does not exist in modern China. Nevertheless, more people are becoming economically independent; A situation that provides them with some sense of individualism. Moreover, if China were to compete with leading nations such as the United States, it must emphasize creativity and innovation within its people. Stressing individual initiative, action and interests is not an easy task when the nation must consider 1.32 billion different people.
The western world consistently criticizes Beijing for various reasons, most of them are related to individualism. In fact, there is not a single nation in the world today that had to go through what China is undergoing in the past three decades: strong economic growth in a very short period of time while insuring all of its citizens are taken care of in terms of food, shelter and clothing. I do not intend to overlook individualism as a key right for every global citizen. However, one must consider these restrictions and the simple fact that there are too many people in China, when discussing the individualism issue.
The challenges facing modern China are many and intricate. Yet, they are all intertwined with the “Too Many People” phenomenon. Because Beijing decided in 1978 to become a part of the modern world and because since then its growth is unprecedented at its rate, it now faces challenges other nations have never faced before. The government must provide with a job, a place to live and food for every of its 1.32 billion citizens; It also must insure that today’s youth will be able to compete with the west and thus provide it with proper education opportunities and a safe and secure living environment. The Chinese government is finding it difficult to provide these seemingly basic rights for all of its people simply because every Chinese citizen wants and deserves an equal chance of a prosperous life.
I wonder if Chinese people fully understand these challenges, and if they appreciate the efforts taken by the government in overcoming them.