Urban Poverty in China

Urban Poverty in China

Fulong Wu, Chris Webster, Shenijing He and Yuting Liu

Urban poverty is an emerging problem. This book explores the household and neighbourhood factors that lead to both the generation and continuance of urban poverty in China. It is argued that the urban Chinese are not a homogenous social group, but combine laid-off workers and rural migrants, resulting in stark contrasts between migrant and workers’ neighbourhoods and villages.

Chapter 1: China’s New Urban Poverty: An Introduction

Fulong Wu, Chris Webster, Shenijing He and Yuting Liu

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian geography, asian urban and regional studies, development studies, asian development, development studies, geography, human geography, urban and regional studies, urban studies

Extract

In this introductory chapter we depict the urban poverty problem in China. We aim to highlight that urban poverty is an emerging and complex phenomenon, which is driven by three broad processes: decline of the state-owned economy; changing welfare provision; and urbanization and rural-to-urban migration. We emphasize that urban poverty is intertwined with institutional legacies. That is, the urban poor do not comprise a homogenous social group. Their places of living also show great diversity. Rapid economic growth in China has been accompanied by rising social inequality. China has changed from one of the most egalitarian countries to one with income inequality greater than most other developing countries in East Asia (UNCHS, 2001; Khan and Riskin, 2001). In the 1980s, the issue of poverty was mainly regarded as a problem affecting the backward western region, remote or ecologically fragile areas, and rural areas (Gustafsson and Zhong, 2000). Full employment under the socialist policy of an ‘iron rice bowl’ in the cities has meant that poverty was confined to rural areas. Only recently has poverty been recognized as an urban problem (UNDP, 2000: 7). As a country with a socialist history, China is used to minimum social stratification, in particular in the cities, where full employment formed the basic right of social security (Khan and Riskin, 2001). The massive scale of urban poverty since the mid-1990s is quite different from the kinds of living hardships experienced in the former regime, which were caused mainly by physical disabilities. China is therefore facing...