The emergence of labour migration is largely a result of the global outsourcing of labour-intensive industries to China, China’s own positioning in the global production network and the new international divisions of labour. The contribution of migration to the welfare of rural migrants and to the development of rural areas is still contested. Inequality towards rural migrants stems not only from the global economy but also fundamentally from a national institutional structure – the hukou system. China’s international migration has increased in volume, diversity, geographical scope and overall complexity. China’s increasing investment abroad is also likely to impact the direction of migration flows. The interconnectedness between internal and international migration is increasing as a result of urbanisation and global integration. The new reality tests the wisdom of policymakers to manage ordered population flows while creating a socially just society. It also demands that scholars link internal and international migration in future research.