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Chongqing, China
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Bang Bang Men Chongqing  China

Bang Bang Men

No matter how I try, words always fail me when I try to explain the size of China's population to people back home. A million is already an abstract number, so ten, twenty, thirty million makes now difference. A billion people? Even I can't wrap my head around it, and I'm living it.

Chongqing has always had a boomtown feel, sitting squat in the middle of China alongside the Yangtzhe River. Chongqing the municipality has 31 million residents. That's more than the populations of Iraq, Peru or Malaysia. The city itself has 10 million, but that's forecasted to double to 20 million in just 13 years.

People come to Chongqing from the countryside in droves, wave after wave landing here like an army. A large segment of the migrant population start here as "bangbang men", more than 100,000 people. With no skills, they buy the cheapest tools– a bamboo stick and a rope. Then they hire themselves out to anyone who will pay, at the train stations, the docks, the factories, and carry their heavy loads up and down Chongqing's steep streets.

Photo by Michael Gwyther-Jones/Flickr.