Based on lengthy ethnographic fieldwork in Southwest China, this article unpacks how precarity and migration have deeply shaped young migrant workers’ understanding and experiences of friendship. The precarious work and living conditions compel young migrants to put more emphasis on the instrumental aspects of friendship, in which they deeply value friends’ help and practical support, which also intertwine closely with the emotional aspects of friendship. High mobility does not mean that migrants are not able to form and maintain ‘meaningful’ social relationships; rather, it is friends’ support and help which sustain migrants’ precarious and highly mobile ways of living. This article also discusses the burdens and risks that are associated with such friendship practices, and how, despite these ‘dark sides of friendship’, young migrant workers still largely rely on their friends to survive and keep going in the city.
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