On the surface, it looks like China is the land of the free.
The country boasts a growing middle class that wants a home, a rising middle class with rising incomes and a growing number of tech-savvy workers who are willing to take a risk to start a new life.
But the picture looks quite different on the ground.
The world’s second-largest economy is grappling with a severe financial crisis, with the stock market in free fall and consumer confidence plunging.
The government has tried to contain the economic damage by trying to reduce unemployment, but many Chinese workers and their families have not had enough to eat.
“I don’t have enough money to buy groceries.
We have no choice but to work,” said Xu Shuzi, a 60-year-old man with a shaved head and a thick accent who lives in an apartment in Shenzhen.
His wife, who earns only about $2.70 a day, and their three children are living on food stamps.
The couple said they are not sure if they will be able to afford the rent for a two-bedroom apartment next month.
“We need money to get the kids to school, but I don’t know how much it will cost,” said Mr. Xu, who has been unemployed since the start of the year.
Mr. Chen, who said he works in a factory and pays about $4 an hour, said he needs about $1,200 a month to survive.
Mr Chen and his wife are among a growing population of Chinese working on a new generation of small, mobile businesses that are being squeezed by soaring costs and limited access to credit.
The surge in microenterprises, often run by small groups of people with a shared passion for a new product or service, is disrupting the traditional business model.
They are not limited to the construction industry, and some of them are turning to crowdfunding and other crowdfunding sites to raise money to start their own businesses.
In some cases, it is becoming harder for a company like an air-conditioning company to survive because of the high costs of labor and a lack of credit, according to the International Labour Organization.
Some businesses are also selling their own products online, using their own robots, rather than paying suppliers.
And some are using technology to help their workers manage their finances.
“The growth of microenterprise businesses is very important because they are helping to develop the digital economy,” said David Lebovitz, the Asia economist at the Washington-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The boom in microentrepreneurs comes as China’s economy is struggling to regain momentum after a severe slowdown that began in late 2014.
China is still reeling from the 2008-09 financial crisis that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
But many economists have predicted that China’s growth would rebound after the new fiscal year starts on Jan. 1, which begins with the new year.
But recent data from the World Bank shows that China has lost ground in the global economy in the last two years, and the slowdown has widened.
China’s exports have declined by about 8% in the first quarter of 2017, according in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
That’s the steepest decline since at least 2009, and economists worry that China is heading toward another downturn.
“China’s growth will be slow for the next two years,” said Zhang Wei, the managing director of research at the China Banking Regulatory Commission.
The growth of the Chinese microenterrepreneurs is also spurring a backlash among investors and the broader Chinese economy, according of a report by the Asia Institute, a Washington- based think tank.
Investors are losing faith in the Chinese economy and are fearful of the effects of the government’s policies, including efforts to restrict foreign ownership of some companies and curb financial regulation.
China has also become increasingly reliant on technology, and has been accused of using state-owned companies to do business abroad.
A government-controlled website recently listed more than 1,200 microenterfacts.
Some microentficants have been targeted by police in recent months.
“This is really the beginning of a trend, the beginning,” said Yan Zhuo, the executive director of the China Association of Microentrepreneurial Enterprises.
“What we’re witnessing is a new type of growth that is not limited by government intervention but is actually coming from the bottom up.”