For the first time in history, more Chinese people now live in towns and cities than in rural villages. Reaching 51% in 2011, urbanisation in China is accelerating. Convinced that this holds the key to the country’s ongoing social and economic development, China’s leaders recently announced an urbanisation target of 70% (approximately 900 million people) by 2025. However, leaders including Premier Li Keqiang have emphasised that future urbanisation would be characterised not by an expansion of megacities (dushihua 都市花), but by growth in rural towns and small cities (chengzhenhua 城镇化). The Party is essentially seeking to take the cities to the rural populace rather than bring the rural populace to the cities. Following the policy announcement at the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, a group of national ministries has been tasked with developing guidelines for promoting the urbanisation of rural China.
In reality, this understudied dimension of China’s urbanisation has been underway for some time. Following the industrialisation of many rural areas along the coast and within distance of cities, many “villages” have grown to accommodate 30,000 or more workers. Today many of these villages, especially in the Pearl River Delta, have become urban-like nodes in an everwidening urban sprawl. Even in China’s agricultural heartland, vast numbers of county towns are becoming small cities, a process accelerated by the increasing concentration of public services in county towns and the expansion of industry in China’s inland provinces. In a separate thrust, in much of China, under the auspices of the Building a New Socialist Countryside programme (jianshe shehui zhuyi xin nongcun 建设社会主义新农村) that began in 2006, (1) government policies are encouraging whole villages to demolish their current housing and to move into communities of high-density townhouses, sometimes merging several villages in order to provide supermarkets, libraries, etc., in a replication of urban life. All of these forms of onrushing urbanisation are reshaping rural China – its landscape, culture, and social structures…
Ben Hillman and Jonathan Unger, « Editorial », China Perspectives [Online], 2013/3 | 2013, Online since 01 September 2013, connection on 25 March 2017. URL : http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/6235Top of page
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