The greatest migration in human history.

Photo: New Fengdu, Chongqing Municipality, 2003. Part of the newly built suburbs of Chongqing. Note the grass on the roof of the building in the fore ground. Image by Sze Tsung Leong.

The New York Times has a good report on the Chinese human tide that is moving from rural to urban areas. Millions upon millions every year are making the move, encouraged by the Chinese authorities.

In 1978, a mere 18 percent of Chinese lived in cities and towns. By 2010, the authorities estimate that 50 percent will, as part of what demographers and other experts say is the greatest migration in human history.

‘Whether judged by its size, its ambition or the scale of transformation, Chongqing, with its 12 million people, remains in a class by itself.

The city’s economic growth is drawing about 200,000 new residents a year, the equivalent of adding an Akron, Ohio, or an Orlando, Fla. But the city fathers are not content to stop there.

They are also expanding the city limits, rapidly incorporating adjacent rural areas under a scheme the city calls the “one-hour economy circle.” Under the plan, which is being emulated by other big inland cities, the city wants to move two million rural residents into newly urbanized areas within an hour’s driving distance from the city center within the next five years, and another two million in the five years after that.

As an inducement the city is enticing landholders to surrender their claims on their rural plots in exchange for prized urban residency permits that offer not only legal residence in a city, but also access to social services and benefits unavailable in rural areas.

Chongqing is already comfortably China’s biggest inland city, but within a decade or so, initiatives like these could push it into contention with Shanghai and Beijing for the title of the nation’s biggest city.’

Of course one of the pitfalls of this rapid development is the 24hr air pollution, with dust from building sites one of the biggest problems.
More …

See the film The World, by acclaimed Chinese director Jia Zhangke which deals with the trials and tribulations of modern Chinese migration.

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4 Responses to The greatest migration in human history.

  1. kunzilla says:

    The air pollution is not the only thing to worry about. Even though the city has TWO rivers cut through, the water quality is very low, comparing to what we drink in the States. One thing good about the city is that the taxis will take you anywhere, unlike taxis here in NYC.

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  3. the Grit says:


    The up side of this is that, with a surge in the ranks of their middle class, China is much less likely to use their current military build up to cause trouble. With social stability at stake, and, thus, the positions of power for the ruling elite, a stronger military is most likely aimed at gaining world respect than at some sort of conquest. I still don’t like communists, but at least these seem more reasonable that the Soviets.

    the Grit

  4. matt says:

    That’s down right saintly for you Gritty ole boy. 🙂

    Always nice to hear someone’s first hand account of a city not so frequented by foreigners. Apparently taxis in Shanghai are impossible, according to another first hand traveller’s tale.

    So its go west then. 🙂

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