China to become urban country by 2015 – Telegraph

China to become urban country by 2015

More than half of all Chinese will be living in cities by 2015 for the first time in history as industralisation drives the greatest migration from countryside to towns ever seen.

Over the past 30 years China has moved from a predominantly peasant society to a country with more than 160 cities of 1m people or more.

Li Bin, director of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, said that 700m Chinese people will be living in the cities by 2015, representing a shade over half the projected population of 1.39bn.

The rapid pace of Chinese moving to industrial hubs for better-paying factory jobs has posed growing challenges for government managers.

A chronic shortage of affordable housing, low wages, a rise in violent crime and a widening gap between rich and poor all contribute to an estimated 100,000 demonstrations a year.

In recent weeks a series of strikes across China’s car and technology factories has seen young workers demand higher wages to offset rising inflation.

China’s urbanisation has also seen a massive jump in internet usage to 400m online users this year; a phenomenon that has broadened previously narrow horizons, increasing demands on the State and giving workers a vital tool to organise protests.

The relative shortage of labour is also expected to constrain China’s economic growth in the coming decade, with the World Bank estimating that China’s GDP growth will slow to 7 per cent a year by 2020, compared with almost 10 per cent between 1995-2009.

The slowing of overall growth will in turn make it harder for China to generate the millions of jobs it requires to maintain a constant rate of employment, adding to social pressures in the cities.

And although China – unlike India – has managed its mass urbanisation without creating slums, it faces growing discontent from migrants to the cities who still have a rural registration document, that means they are still not entitled to many basic services.

China is currently pilot-testing a relaxation of the registration rules but the changes are not coming fast enough for organisations like the World Bank that argue reform will help speed up the creation of a new class of urban consumers.

The shift to the city, as well as fuelling urban tensions, has also created problems for China’s villages, which have been described as being on a ‘wartime footing’, with all the able-bodied men and women away, leaving just young children and old people behind.

The shortage of parent-age adults in China’s villages has also been linked to a possible decline in literacy in China which some analysts predict could have long-term consequences for China’s ability to shift its economy into more advanced manufacturing and services.

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