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On a sunny afternoon, outside the brick red and white Shenyang Railway Station, a man about medium height walked out with his luggage. Located in the northeast of China, Shenyang is part of “Dongbei”, cold in October. Under the superb gate of the station, he seemed to be cold and tired.


“I used to work in Hangzhou, in the video industry, mainly about shooting some large events.”, said Wang Xiaoning, the young man with long hair and glasses, and red-rimmed eyes. “I come back to Shenyang, looking for a job. Maybe I will rent a house here but I’m unsure whether I’ll live here for long.”


Built by Japanese architect Masatoshi Tozaki, the elegant rail station witnessed the rise and fall of Shenyang city. During the planned economy period, in the early stage of the People’s Republic of China, Shenyang received great attention from the central government. Called “the eldest son of the Republic”, Shenyang got one-seventh of the national industry budget and was regarded as the most advanced city in Asia.


But today, things are different. Due to China's economic reforms, Shenyang has lost 20% of its population in the last decade. Its old industrial base collapsed 20 years ago. The chilly northern city seemed a strange destination for job hunting. “You can call me half a Shenyang local. I grew up in the Liaozhong district. It’s part of Shenyang now.” Wang explained, “I come back home because it’s impossible to buy a house in Hangzhou. I don’t think it’s necessary, but my parents do. And my mother is ill now, I think I should be a filial son.” Yes, it’s not sensible to leave Hangzhou for house prices as they are declining in all major cities in China. But that’s not the case when it involves family duty.


Wang set out on foot from the station to the square at Zhongshan Road, named after the great revolutionary statesman Sun Yat-sen. 


“It’s hard to find a job here, no, it is impossible,” said Wang. “There aren’t any big media firms in Dongbei, while small companies here can’t afford the equipment.” However, it’s not the case in Hangzhou. “I worked for a startup in Hangzhou. However, they can still afford the entire media system, which costs about 6 million Yuan.” What’s more, the employment environment is also not good in Dongbei, “I can only have one rest day every week, it’s common in Dongbei, and many private companies don’t care about the labor law.”


Besides the geography limit, the changing industry makes it even harder for him to find a job. “The short media doesn’t lower the entrance requirement of the media industry. It’s harder now compared to the beginning time of TikTok.”, Wang comments, “At first, you just need a phone or a single camera to produce content, but now even the vlogger has a complex set of equipment.”


Wang finally arrived at Zhongshan Plaza, under the grand statue of Chairman Mao looming in the middle of it. 


With a faint smile, he added, “Besides hunting for jobs, I will try to improve my skills. Later I may choose to go to Beijing, there are more opportunities.” Stopped for a while, he added, “Though my family may discourage me, you know, it’s even harder to get a house in Beijing, I will pursue my dream.” He left the plaza waving a hand in farewell. “You know, life is getting better.” The temperature started to drop as the sunset; a slight tiredness showed on his face.

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Kenny Su

Kenny Su, currently a freshman at NYU Shanghai intended to major in computer science. He actively participates in various school activities and deeply engages in different extracurricular events. As he always mentions, “travel makes me feel alive”,  he is interested in traveling and photography, especially landscape photography.

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