In a country that constantly hits the headlines for its unprecedented growth, it is sometimes forgotten that many citizens have yet to reap the benefits of China's economic transformation of recent years.
The country's "mouse people", a community living amid the ever-changing cityscape of Beijing but not fully part of it, have become a celebrated example of those struggling on the economy's fringes.
Reports have suggested that hundreds of thousands of people have been forced into renting cut-price rooms in former air-raid shelters in the capital. They were unable to afford even the smallest above-ground apartments in outlying areas of the city.
Rents for such apartments start at about 1,000 yuan (Dh567) a month, which is as much as the "mice", who typically work as waiters or painters and decorators, earn in a month.
While their stuffy basements, which are cold in winter and sweltering in summer, cannot be compared with the shanty towns of South America or South Asia, they are nonetheless a world away from the luxury apartments springing up in other parts of the Chinese capital.
It appears the mice are becoming an increasingly rare species. After heavy international publicity this year about their plight, and continued reports in recent weeks, the authorities have closed many of the basements and forced their residents to search for new accommodation.
One reason given by officials for shutting the underground residences has been the fire hazard of having large numbers of people living in basements that were not designed for that purpose.
The subject became particularly sensitive after 58 people died in a Shanghai tower-block fire last November. Two of the basements The Nationalvisited in February were found to be shut during a return visit this month.
Many of the former residents are now likely to be following in the footsteps of one of Beijing's other marginalised communities - the "ant tribe" as they have been called - and are sharing rooms. The ant tribe is the name given to struggling young people, mostly university graduates, whose incomes are insufficient for them to rent proper apartments.
Instead, they have ended up in grimy apartment blocks where rooms are often divided up among several tenants so that those earning just a couple of thousand yuan a month can afford the rent.
With property prices having increased dramatically in China in recent years, the government has introduced a string of measures, including clampdowns on bank lending and restrictions on multiple property purchases, as well as raising interest rates and property taxes, to cool the market amid wider concerns about economic overheating.
Yet there has not been a sustained slowdown, and there seems little likelihood that rents, driven high by China's need for an estimated 7 million new homes each year as urbanisation continues, are likely to fall to the extent that the poorest migrant workers will no longer struggle to find suitable accommodation.
Stephen Ching, an associate professor in the school of economics and finance at the University of Hong Kong, said the incentives for local authorities to ensure land prices remained high would ensure there was no significant drop in the housing market.
Land sales provide local authorities with up to 70 per cent of their income, by some estimates. Even conservative estimates have put the figure as high as 30 per cent.
"The premier, Wen Jiabao, has talked about trying to curb the housing price, but … land sales are the major income source for the provincial government," Mr Ching said.
"The central government policy might not be implemented effectively by the local government, so I don't see much effect on the land price or the housing price."
According to official reports, China aims to build 10 million affordable homes this year, but appeals from the authorities for developers to construct more low-price homes have often fallen on deaf ears.
According to reports, work had started on just 300,000 affordable homes by the end of May.
And in any case, even a so-called affordable home is well beyond the reach of a poorly paid migrant worker.
So although the mice themselves have in many cases been moved out of the basements they used to call home, the problems that led them to take up residence in former bomb shelters in the first place are likely to persist.