What Looms Behind China’s Growing Urbanization

5 February, 2012 at 07:40 | Posted in China, Economy | Leave a comment
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Epoch Times Staff

China’s urban population has passed the 50 percent mark, according to China’s Bureau of Statistics. This is the first time in Chinese history that the urban population exceeds the number of people living in the countryside. And while the regime touts urbanization as the engine behind China’s future economic development, analysts say there are problems with the statistics.

China’s urban population has passed the 50 percent mark, according to China’s Bureau of Statistics. This is the first time in Chinese history that the urban population exceeds the number of people living in the countryside. And while the regime touts urbanization as the engine behind China’s future economic development, analysts say there are problems with the statistics.

“Urbanization exceeding 50 percent means China’s thousands of years of history as an agricultural society is about to begin a new era,” a Jan. 17 China News Network article quoted from a report by Li Peilin, Director of the Institute of Sociology at China’s Academy of Social Sciences.

Li also said that after industrialization, urbanization will become the engine behind mainland China’s future development.

Statistical Manipulation

Urbanization in mainland China is not a natural growth process, but a forced one, and some of the statistics are fabricated and give a distorted picture of the new city dwellers and their future prospects, according to some analysts.

Cheng Xiaonong, a China affairs researcher at Princeton University, questions the validity of the official statistics. He says the so-called urbanization is just a statistical trick, whereby in many places, towns have been upgraded into cities, and villages renamed as districts, suddenly turning the countryside into an urban area.

“Looking at China’s map, many county seat towns have been renamed as cities. After changing the name, lots of rural populations suddenly become city populations,” Cheng told Voice of America (VOA) in a Jan. 17 report.

Migrant Workers

According to a Tianjin.net report on Jan. 18, some mainland scholars say it would be more accurate to calculate China’s urban population by counting only those who are registered city household, rather than counting the total city population.

The [huge numbers of] migrant workers who are in a city but don’t enjoy the benefits of a city, can’t be considered part of a city’s population, the report said.

Therefore, when the urban population was said to have reached 47 percent, some scholars estimate the actual number should have been 40 percent, with the rest being fabricated.

Forcing Farmers off their Land

In a Nov. 23, 2011 report, Beijing Times—one of the country’s most outspoken newspapers–quoted Gan Zangchun, deputy inspector at China’s National Land Bureau, saying that government land acquisition has created “fake urbanization.”

Princeton University’s Cheng Xiaonong also remarked on this in his VOA interview. He said in lots of places in China farmers are forced to live in towns.

Citing Chongqing as a typical example, Cheng said, “[Party chief] Bo Xilai has been promoting a policy of moving farmers into towns–building apartments and moving farmers into them–and treating this as urbanization.”

Cheng said urbanization isn’t about calculating statistics, but about farmers being able to move into the city and gaining the same level of treatment that city residents get.

“If farmers can never obtain the same benefits city folks have, then the 160 million migrant workers in China will never become [real] urban residents,” Cheng said.

Cheng added that urbanization is generally accompanied by economic growth. In other countries, urbanization happens naturally, but in mainland China, urbanization is the result of the Chinese regime forcefully pushing farmers off of their land.

“If you pull on a plant to make it grow faster and pull the roots out of the ground, can the plant still grow?” Cheng asked.

Professor Patrick Chovanec at Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management also warned of this issue. “Mainland China’s policy makers have used urbanization as an excuse to build many buildings, but didn’t think about how to turn all that into an economic advantage for sustainable development,” he told VOA on Jan. 17.

In the U.S., the urban population exceeded rural population in 1920.

Renowned online commentator Yu Fenghui said on a Sina blog: “China is only at the 1920 U.S. level. It’s not really something worth getting excited about.”

Yu went on to say that as China’s urban population grows, it will bring along lots of resource shortages related to employment, education, retirement, and housing. Low-income growth, lack of social benefits, and inflation will add additional hardships.

Throughout China’s major cities, many impressive looking high-rise apartment buildings are nearly empty. Housing in Beijing and Shanghai is priced at 20 times the average city dweller’s annual income, and throughout China 85 percent of city residents who need a new house cannot afford one, according to a Dec. 29 Epoch Times report.

Read the original Chinese article.

via What Looms Behind China’s Growing Urbanization | Society | China | Epoch Times

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