"His wife hardly makes any money, so the family really depends on Zhixin financially," Li Luxin said. "City living is costly with the children going to school."
Construction workers in Chinese cities typically earn the equivalent of $700-$800 a month, but they hear tantalizing stories of much better pay in foreign countries where low-skilled laborers are lacking. Hundreds of thousands go overseas each year, leaving their families behind. At the end of 2013, about 853,000 Chinese laborers were working overseas, according to the Commerce Ministry.
On Flight 370 alone, eight men from the Dingzhou municipal region of 1 million that includes Ziwei village were returning from contract work in Singapore.
Li Zhixin had informed his family he was going to Singapore — his first trip abroad — only after making all the arrangements. He had borrowed about $3,000 to pay an agent who lined up a construction job there, his brother said. Such fees usually include the round-trip ticket.
"He was told he could make as much as 300 yuan ($50) a day," Li Luxin said.
But he was soon disappointed because there was not enough work, the brother said.
"He regretted going there and told his wife's brother over the phone that he was often idle with no work and no income," he said. "Before he came back this time, he said he would never go abroad again because he had made no money this time."
The father and eldest son, Li Jingxin, traveled to Beijing the day after the plane went missing. But they were frustrated by the lack of information provided by airline officials, and the father returned home a few days later.
"Pigs cherish their piglets, dogs cherish their puppies, and we humans cherish our children," he said. "There has not been a day that I do not miss my child."