Cities Journal
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China Expanding Cities

1.China Expanding Cities
Photo credit: Sam Gao / Flickr

Out among the small villages in rural China, farmers are packing up their belongings as bulldozers idle alongside the road. These villages — some over thousands of years old — are being leveled to make way for paved roads, high-rises, urban schools and hospitals. Where are the people going? They are moving to cities in an urbanization initiative set forth by the government to stimulate economic growth and modernize life for over 250 million rural people.

By 2025, 900 Million People Will Live In China’s Cities

The government’s plan is to have close to 70% of the population living the city life. If their plans work out without any hitches, there will be 221 cities with over one million people residing there and 23 cities with over 5 million people. These population figures are more than the entire population of the United States.

Some of the fastest growing cities in China are places you may have never heard before. The city of Puning once had a population of 76,000 in 1990. Ten years later, the population exploded to 911,000 people.

The government’s urbanization plan is to have 1,255,000 people living in Puning in 2025. Other cities in China with such rapid growth include Foshan with an expected population of over 6 million people in 2025, Jinjiang with an expected population of 1,303,000 people in 2025, and Shenzhen that will have a 2025 population of 11,146,000 people.

What China Hopes To Achieve?

This rapid urbanization has an economic purpose. China hopes that the growth of workers living in the city will attract more foreign companies and investors to spend their money in this country. With an abundance of city workers and employment opportunities, this plan will open up new investment markets to raise the economic possibilities in the cities while reducing the amount of natural resources that are consumed in the rural areas to sustain life there.

Yet there are many obstacles in the path of rapid urbanization. Until these new jobs are created, massive unemployment will affect all the people who were uprooted from their villages.

China will also have to effectively manage social services as well as the higher demand on energy and water resources for the expanding cities. These cities will also have to quickly institute viable education and health care plans for the expanding cities to fight against problems of poverty and unskilled workers living in urban slums.
Where Are The Relocated Farmers Now?

Municipalities are managing rural plots as the farmers are making their way into the cities. Each person was given a free apartment and paid tens of thousands of money for their land. Yet the dislocation has left the farmers wondering what they will do next with their lives.

While they have money to make a basic living for several years, they are clueless on what they will do when the money runs out. Those who have the education and skills should be able to find work easily. But for farmers who have lived entirely on their rural plots, they will need the education and work experience to have a chance to compete in the job market.

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