Young workers in China’s sprawling metropolises peck at their computers, worm through ugly commutes, and sometimes come home to find that their overpriced, run-down apartments are soon to be torn down. Many have moved to smaller cities where they can have a more comfortable life with more leisure time. These young souls are not as tempted by the urban glamor as many would expect, and part of it might be because the country’s tech giants have kept them well entertained and contented.

“Life in small cities is much simpler,” says Xiao Ye, a 25-year-old mother of one. She runs a beauty shop in a small coastal city in south China. “The young people here like to hang out at bubble tea shops. The girls watch dramas and reality TV shows on their phones, and the guys play Honor of Kings on their phones.”

Unlike their parents’ generation, many young people in China’s lower-tier cities, which include prefecture- and county-level urban areas, have a college degree and a decent job. They stay in affordable and spacious homes, with plenty of disposable income.

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.