Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek

In the Shadows of Shanghai's Skyscrapers

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    Migrant workers Zhang Chunying, 47, and her husband, Wang Chunlin, 51, live in the Xintiandi district of Shanghai, known for luxury shopping and entertainment. Collecting and selling cardboard and other recyclables, they make about 100 yuan ($15) a day—which they are using to put their son through a university.

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    After a whole morning of collecting recyclable materials, Zhang comes home to the old lane house where she has a 10-square-meter room. There is no shower. Zhang says she just wipes herself down in her room to keep clean.

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Back from his morning delivery rounds, Wang takes a nap in the single-room home he shares with his wife, before starting to collect recyclable materials again in the afternoon.

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Around 3 p.m., Zhang munches on a boiled corn cob while she makes herself lunch: plain noodles boiled in water, oil, MSG, and some artificial chicken flavoring and a few bean sprouts left over from breakfast.

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Zhang, biking past a Cartier and Apple store on her tricycle, cardboard piled high. “I’m so tired of this way of living,” she says. “But we have no choice.”

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Shanghai is home to over 370,000 U.S.-dollar millionaires.

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    A 10-minute drive west of downtown Shanghai, on a street popular with migrant workers, ragmen hawk clothes, shoes, and other household items they found in the trash. Migrants come armed with torchlights and shop for clothes there, trying them on for size on the spot.

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    This is not a view of Shanghai that Zhang has from her single-room home. “Shanghai is a good place to make some money. It’s full of pretty, tall high-rise buildings, but those are good only for those with money. We have no money, so that’s not for us,” says Zhang.

    Photograph by Sim Chi Yin for Bloomberg Businessweek