Handbook of Rural Development
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Handbook of Rural Development

Edited by Gary Paul Green

Although most countries in the world are rapidly urbanizing, the majority of the global population – particularly the poor – continue to live in rural areas. This Handbook rejects the popular notion that urbanization should be universally encouraged and presents clear evidence of the vital importance of rural people and places, particularly in terms of environmental conservation. Expert contributors from around the world explore how global trends, state policies and grassroots movements affect contemporary rural areas in both developed and developing countries.
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Chapter 15: Urbanization, farm dependence and population change in China1

Li Zhang


As the most populous country, China has 20 percent of the world’s population, which is four times the US population. Geographically, China occupies 7 percent of the world’s land area with the third-biggest landmass, following only Russia and Canada. The majority (94 percent) of the population in China lives in the eastern half of the country, divided by a line drawn from the town of Aihui in the Northeast province of Heilongjiang to Tengchong in the Southwest province of Yunnan. About 41 percent of the population lives in the coastal provinces and only about 6 percent of the population lives in the mountainous west where 55 ethnic minority groups reside. Currently, China has 31 province-level administrative units, comprising 22 provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities. The 22 provinces are Hebei, Shanxi, Gansu, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, Shandong, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Hainan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Qinghai. The five autonomous regions are Guangxi, Inner Mongolia (Nei Menggu), Ningxia, Tibet (Xizang), and Xinjiang. And the four central administrative municipalities are Beijing (the capital of China), Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing. The five autonomous regions and the four municipalities are governmental equivalents of provinces, and are referred to and treated as provinces in this chapter. In addition to these administrative units, there are two special autonomous regions (SARs) of China: Hong Kong (since 1997) and Macau (since 1999). The 31 administrative units are classified into six regions: Northeast, North, Northwest, East, Southwest, and Central and South.

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