The Great Demographic, Spatial, Economic, and Social Transformation
Chapter 9: Double dual transformation: understanding urbanization with Chinese characteristics
Considering its enormous scale and impact, China’s urbanization in the last three decades is an economic and social event of global significance as well as a monumental change for China’s own citizens. As China moves into the rank of developed and urbanized countries in the next twenty to thirty years its economic and social transformation will have an even more profound impact not only on the Chinese people, but the entire world. Before reform and opening up, China’s nationwide urbanization level increased by less than 8 percent from about 10 percent in 1949 to just under 18 percent in 1978 (NBSC-csy, 1984). During what we term the transition period after reform and opening up, it has increased by more than 37 percent to about 55 percent today (NBSC, 2015b). The transition period was remarkably different from Mao’s age. China is still at the stage of economic development Walt Whitman Rostow terms the “drive to maturity” (Rostow, 1956) and at the mid to late stage of accelerating urbanization according to the Davis and Northam S-shaped urbanization curves discussed in Chapter 1 (Davis, 1965; Northam, 1979). While we believe that China’s future urbanization will be slower than World Bank, UN and other experts predict, it is likely that China’s urbanization level will reach 75 percent within 30 years and China will be at the flat top of the S curve—essentially urbanized.
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