There are plenty of well-known foreign fast food franchises in every Chinese mega-city: McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King all arrived in the late ’90s and their restaurants bloomed everywhere.

Only thirty years ago McDonald’s was almost unknown in Mainland China. But then market socialism started up a throughly capitalistic revolution called by some “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, whose ideals of general economic wealthiness born with Deng Xiaoping founded today’s newborn China Dream.

During the last decades, fast food restaurants have been witnesses to a revolution in contemporary Chinese families’ structure and life arrangements. Proposing cheap American foods and dreams — a different life-style model for the new consumers — foreign fast food restaurants have become prominent fixtures in urban spaces for many people. They have become recognizable familiar simulacra for both the local and the outsider. More than this, hidden in every anonymous compound of skyscrapers, they have lately surged up to an unspoken new role, they have become shelters.

Fast food sleepers are now a common presence in every fast food chain in China. Young jobless migrants looking for luck in the megalopolis, homeless grannies left apart from the new society, young students going to the big city for university admission tests, drunk men and women who just do not want to go back home tonight, lunatics and, in general, anybody who cannot afford the price of a cheap hotel room and is looking for a warm night refuge.

They are all here, poignantly showing the tale of two Chinas, hidden behind the curtain of new development plans. They are all here, quietly wrapped in the surreal atmosphere of anonymous non-places, for a silent night as one more day slips away again.

— Sabrina Merolla