China’s Urban Century
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China’s Urban Century

Governance, Environment and Socio-Economic Imperatives

Edited by François Gipouloux

The achievements of China’s urbanization should not be evaluated solely in terms of adequate infrastructures, but also in their ability to implement sound governance practices to ensure social, environmental and economic development. This book addresses several key challenges faced by Chinese cities, based on the most recent policies and experiments adopted by central and local governments. The contributors offer an interdisciplinary analysis of the urbanization process in China, and examine the following key topics: the institutional foundations of Chinese cities, the legal status of the land, the rural to urban migration, the preservation of the urban heritage and the creation of urban community, and the competitiveness of Chinese cities. They define the current issues and challenges emerging from China’s urbanization.
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Chapter 6: Snail without a shell: migrant workers’ difficult path towards urban housing

Chi-Han Ai, Miguel Elosua and Sébastien Goulard


After the implementation of economic reforms and opening-up policies in China, foreign direct investment flowed into the country, resulting in increasing demand for labour. Although the Chinese government eased migration controls, the hukou system was not abolished. The free movement of workers within the country was gradually made possible thanks to the removal of a number of obstacles that had completely prevented intercity mobility until then. Industrialization sparked off massive migration to the cities and gave birth to a new social class, the migrant worker, without whom this industrialization could have never occurred. However, even though China’s urbanization rate increased from 29 per cent in 1995 to 52.57 per cent in 2012, only 35 per cent of the urban population is registered under an urban permanent residence permit or hukou. Rural workers are usually referred to as ‘migrant workers’ (nongmin gong). Urbanization in China has for this reason been termed a ‘ peri-urbanization’ situation.

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