Understanding China's Urbanization
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Understanding China's Urbanization

The Great Demographic, Spatial, Economic, and Social Transformation

Li Zhang, Richard LeGates and Min Zhao

China’s urbanization is one of the great earth-changing phenomena of recent times. The way in which China continues to urbanize will have a critical impact on the world economy, global climate change, international relations and a host of other critical issues. Understanding and responding to China’s urbanization is of paramount importance to everyone. This book represents a unique exploration of the demographic, spatial, economic and social aspects of China’s urban transformation.
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Chapter 6: Population flows and semi-urbanization

Li Zhang, Richard LeGates and Min Zhao


Chapter 5 described the impact of globalization, FDI, and China’s engagement with the world economy. A massive influx of FDI, the flourishing of export-oriented industry, growth of domestic capital, maturation of industry in the best-developed parts of China, the shift of less sophisticated manufacturing and assembly operations to central and western China and other macro-level forces have had a huge impact on China’s population. Development and urbanization are closely linked. This chapter builds on Chapter 2 on China’s hukou system and Chapter 5 on globalization to describe large-scale population flows which have occurred in China since reform and opening up and further elucidate the complex nature of China’s urbanization. China has had a dual society for millennia with large differences between the income and quality of life in urban areas compared with rural and peri-urban areas and among regions in China. As restrictions on migration have been relaxed and China’s rural population has become more aware of differences between rural and urban areas and their expectations have increased, population flows between rural and urban areas have occurred at a scale unprecedented in human history. How to incorporate urban migrants as full citizens with the same health, education, pension, and other social benefits as residents with urban hukou is one of the great challenges facing China during the next phases of urbanization.

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