The residence permit system was enacted in the 1950s, as part of the Communist Party's plan to rapidly industrialize the economy. It effectively set up an economic apartheid system — forcing rural residents to stay where they were, and work to support urban workers, who were in the state enterprises getting a full range of social services (albeit low pay) in service of the goal of helping China become an industrial power.
  • Migrants looking for work in Chengdu. (Photo: Mary Kay Magistad)

  • Yan Liping playing the guzheng (Photo: Mary Kay Magistad)

  • Wu Jiang (Photo: Mary Kay Magistad)

  • Dong Helong (Photo: Mary Kay Magistad)

  • Students at private school for migrants in Shanghai. (Photo: Mary Kay Magistad)

  • Former farmer Li Jinqi in Shanghai (Photo: Mary Kay Magistad)