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Yu Zhu, Baoyu Xiao and Liyue Lin

This chapter uses data from the 2010 and 2000 population censuses to examine changing spatial and temporal patterns of China’s floating population and their implications for understanding internal migration in China. The results suggest that the size of the floating population continued to increase with fast speed in the period between the two censuses, with coastal provinces in eastern China as their main receiving areas and inland provinces (especially those in central China) as their main source areas. The results also indicate that the proportion of the floating population absorbed by the eastern region declined in the years leading to the 2010 census, suggesting a shrinking migration flow to the eastern part of China. In the meantime, while the Pearl-River Delta region and the Yangtze River Delta region continued to be the two most important destination areas of China’s floating population, their relative position has changed, with the Yangtze River Delta region overtaking the Pearl-River Delta region to become the biggest receiving area of the floating population. In terms of temporal migration patterns of the floating population, the results suggest that short-term migrants still constituted the majority of the floating population, suggesting that their unsettled and unstable nature had not changed much, and that there is still a long way to go for them to settle down, either in their current or future places of destination or their place of origin. The chapter finally suggests that these temporal and spatial patterns of the floating population has important implications for understanding migrants’ identity, their future development and their impact on both sending and receiving areas.