Shanghai's property crisis sends youths flocking to the theatre

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The Chinese government is facing growing discontent from its young people who are being priced out of the housing market.

The booming economy and a massive urbanisation programme has created a housing shortage and driven up prices beyond the reach of many aspirational young Chinese.

A new play, Fight the Landlord, has tapped into one of the biggest issues of Chinese youth and is playing to packed audiences in China's economic centre of Shanghai, which is struggling to find homes for its population of 19 million.

"The property market crisis is the biggest issue we are facing. It's a major problem for us young people," said one student watching the show by Chinese dramatist Sun Yue.

The high price of housing has knock-on effects for Chinese society. If you don't buy an apartment, you can't get married, which means no children, which in turn leaves you unable to honour your parents.

When one of the characters in the Fight the Landlord asks: "What is a 'landlord' anyway?" the answer speaks volumes about New China – "people with money and power", "people with houses and land" and then there is a discussion of the dictionary definition of landlords – "those who own lands, but don't work themselves but make a living by exploiting tenants."

In September, housing prices in 70 major cities rose a hefty 9.1 per cent from August. The government has introduced various measures to cool the property market, such as making it harder to get credit and increasing mortgage rates. But the market continues to rise at a furious rate.

Liu Yuanli and Xia Lin were in love for eight years, got married but have since divorced. "There was too much economic pressure. After paying the rent, we had no money left. Economic pressure killed our love," said Ms Xia.

Her ex-husband agreed. "I'm from the countryside, but don't know when I'll ever earn enough money to buy an apartment in the city. I work hard but it's not enough to buy an apartment in Beijing," said Mr Liu.

Landlords were among those targeted by the Red Guards during the 10-year period of ideological frenzy known as the Cultural Revolution from 1966, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

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