China's Ambitious Plan to Move 100 Million People From Farms to Cities

Illustration for article titled China's Ambitious Plan to Move 100 Million People From Farms to Cities

This week, Chinese authorities published the results of a long-delayed blueprint for how it will grow its cities—and its economy—by 2020. The plan is sweeping, ambitious, and dense, and it gives us a glimpse of China's future.

The crux of the plan? Move 100 million people—mainly, rural farmers—into cities by 2020. To accommodate them, China will start a massive push to develop better public infrastructure, from hospitals to schools to railways. According to the study's authors, the whole idea is to bolster the flagging economy with an influx of new workers, new housing, new infrastructure, and new factories.

The report is 30 chapters long, but a few highlights:

  • By 2020, 60 percent of cities will meet China's national pollution standards. [Reuters]
  • Every city of more than 200,000 people will have a railway connection. [WSJ]
  • $163 billion will be spent to improve the slum-like conditions of migrant workers. [Bloomberg]
  • The industrial development will be focused in the west, away from China's already developed eastern edge. [SCMP]
  • Right now, less than 40 percent of urban citizens are "registered" under China's Hukou system, meaning that the other 60 percent don't have access to public services, including public schools. The new plan will increase the percentage of registered citizens to 45 percent—or 100 million new registered city dwellers. [QZ]
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How realistic are these goals? It's hard to say—but urbanization is already happening at a rapid pace. We'll just have to wait and see whether the government can deliver on its promises. You can check out the details of the plan over on Xinhaunet or The New York Times.

Lead image: Lam Yik Fei/Stringer.

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DISCUSSION

I would have thought that China's problem is that they already have too many people in cities. Why would they want to perpetuate this?

The primary reason why development keeps moving west is because that's where factories are being relocated. It's cheaper to do business there. The problem is that it becomes increasingly expensive to do business as these new regions see an explosion of new development. So these factories pick up and move even further west, or north as they now seem to be doing.

In the meantime, swaths of new development end up abandoned and turned into ghost towns. A big part of the problem is that often the development is specifically built around those new factories. All the urban planning in the world isn't going to help if the labor force doesn't stick around.

The Chinese government has good big picture ideas to encourage growth and development, much better than the US. But the actual implementation usually is terrible and I think they're in the process of creating a huge bubble.