CEIC Data Blog

CEIC Data in The Wall Street Journal: China Turns Predominantly Urban

 

By JEREMY PAGE and BOB DAVIS in Beijing and JAMES T. AREDDY in Shanghai for The Wall Street Journal

BEIJING—China has announced that people living in its towns and cities now outnumber those in the countryside, making it a predominantly urban nation for the first time in Chinese civilization.

WSJThe milestone spotlights a trend that China’s government says will be a key driver of economic growth over the next two decades as hundreds of millions more people move into urban areas in search of higher-paying jobs.

But it also points to the challenges facing Chinese leaders as mass migration places an increasing strain on urban housing, transport and welfare, while fueling pollution, social unrest and demands for political reform.

Urban dwellers account for 51.27% of China’s entire population of nearly 1.35 billion—or a total of 690.8 million people—the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

City dwellers represented just 10.6% of China’s population in 1949, when the Communist Party took power, and just under 19% in 1979, when it launched the market reforms, according to official Chinese statistics.

That means that in the economic boom of the past three decades, China has roughly matched what economic historians say took about 200 years in Britain, 100 years in the U.S. and 50 years in Japan.

Many experts expect the trend to continue at a similar pace in China, with McKinsey, the consulting firm, forecasting last year that the country would have one billion urban residents by 2030—its urban population growing by more than that of the entire U.S. in just two decades.

The social cost of urbanization is becoming increasingly evident, however, with 253 million rural migrants now living in Chinese cities with little or no access to public services, which they can only access in the villages where they are registered under the “hukou” or household-registration system. Full Article

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