China’s income inequality is prevalent, but also overlooked as rapid development has made it the norm for haves and have nots to live amongst one another.


China’s income inequality has become so apparent as the country progresses. Those who don’t or can’t keep up get left behind. Looking back at the photos I took, I realized I was too busy capturing what was new and shiny and forgot to look back at what China used to be – where my family came from.

The parts of China I neglected to capture were countryside migrant workers toiling in shifts to build massive condos at an unprecedented rate. I missed the groups of children breathing in an ever present cloud of construction dust and debris while they played in ripped rubber slippers. I looked past the expressionless faces of those who are just trying to endure one day at a time. This is China’s income inequality.

There was a time when my family were the have nots. Now, my grandparents live in a safe, gated community filled with high rise condos, blossoming gardens and plenty of greenery and palm trees. After years of hard work, they’ve made it in their old age at last. They have finally become the “haves”.

For them, rusty bicycles have turned into leather seated Ubers. Food has turned into fine dining experiences. Shopping is no longer a luxury, it’s exercise. China’s income equality has been favorable to them, but not many are as fortunate.

I am grateful that squat toilets are a thing of the past in the more modern parts of China. However, I hope the culture will not be lost as the country continues to develop. There is a fine line between globalization and westernization.

Monica reflects on her travels by sharing her thoughts on A Cup of Moca. She writes about her journey as she experiences the destination to encourage others to marinate in the moment instead of just checking things off a bucket list.