ZHENGZHOU, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Unlike Apple fans who queue up overnight to purchase the latest smartphone, Li Xiang casts a cold eye over the iPhones that pass through in his hands each day.
Over the past two years, Li has spent 11 hours each day painting and assembling iPhones on the production line at the Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province, earning around 2,000 yuan (325 U.S. dollars) a month.
Returning to his dormitory after a hard day's work, the 26-year-old often asks himself, "My youth has been wasted here, who can tell me where my future is?"
Li is among 1.2 million workers at Chinese mainland plants operated by Foxconn, a leading supplier for Apple Inc., Dell Inc. and Sony Corp.
Tens of thousands of phones are produced each day by hand.
The reality Li faces is nothing like what he dreamed of.
He grew up in a single-parent family in a rural village in Xinyang City in Henan, which is a major source for the country's migrant workers. He went to vocational school, majoring in benchwork, as his teacher told him that type of work was well paid.
Li believed his life was going be different from that of fellow farmers because he would acquire knowledge and skills.
However, after graduating he found himself unable to find a major-related job.
To make ends meet, he accepted unskilled jobs in economy-booming cities in southern coastal areas, earning around 1,000 yuan per month.
In 2011, a recruitment advert for workers at Foxconn's new plant in Zhengzhou rekindled his hope.
"I thought working in a Top 500 company would be very attractive and the salary must be satisfactory," he recalled, without realizing what was in store.
Over the following two years he recorded his despair using a Twitter-like microblog. "Too tired and too sleepy to stay awake at the toilet," "Overtime work makes my mind wander," and "My salary has been less than 2,000 yuan for seven consecutive months" were among his posts.
Li was promoted to technician not long ago. But he was not thrilled considering the post was the second lowest in the plant's 13-level ranking.
Apart from work and sleep, Li said he likes reading. Lu Xun is his favorite writer. Lu in known for his sarcastic writing that mocks social reality.
Fan Ming, a professor on market economy with Henan University of Economics and Law, said the new generation of migrant workers are unlike their fathers, who earned money just to return home. Young workers want to be accepted and rooted in cities.
"Recognition and living with dignity in cities is very hard for them," Fan said.
China has about 250 million migrant workers who have moved to cities from rural areas.
The government underlined the need to help rural migrant workers become urban residents in a document released earlier this year. Efforts will be made to reform the household registration system and loosen requirements for obtaining residence permits in small and medium-sized cities and small townships, according to the document.
Luckily for Li, he met his girlfriend a few months ago at work. They are planning to buy an apartment with money borrowed from their relatives, and start a new life in his hometown.
"I want a life with a family," he said.