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Sealed Villages and the Population Shift

June 6, 2012

After “Sealed Villages”, is it going to be “Sealed Cities”?


News Center –China net 2010-07-30


Author: Xu Guangmu 徐光木


After instituting community management in Daxing, the same work will be undertaken in three groups of villages in Changping, involving 100 villages altogether. As a leading cadre in Changping stated, the first group of 44 villages will begin a pilot project. Among these are 15 villages in the Tiantongyuan and Huilongguan area, in which the population is 335,000, with members of the floating population comprising 275,000, close to 80% of the total. The main aim is to solve the public security problem ( Xinjing News 7-29)


In Daxing, 12 of the 16 inverted population villages in which a pilot program was launched at the end of the 4th month of this year, have had no criminal cases since the inception of the program. Since the result of “sealed villages” seems to be so striking, how can Changping, which suffers the same “damage” from inverted population, safely ignore this example?


Be that as it may, is it possible that there is a better method than sealed villages to solve the public security problem? A certain person said, if sealed villages is what we understand as village management, where will it lead? Does the countryside, as it once existed, have to continue to bear the weight of our nostalgia? The saying “close neighbors are more dear than distant relatives” calls up the scenes of local people in their neighborhoods in the Song dynasty painting “Along the River during the Qingming Festival.” For a long time we called our country Xiangtu Zhongguo, “Home-village China,” precisely because there was a traditional model of village management, in which fellow villagers helped each other. Now, having separated from that traditional practice, to use the name “community management” for what in the end is a sealed village, leaves us with no doubt that the village we recall with great longing no longer exists. The village has become another “urban society” in which peoples’ feelings toward each other are cold and indifferent.


A half century ago, the reason why we had a society in which law and order prevailed, putting aside the fact that it was an age in which everyone lacked material goods and there was no split between rich and poor, was that there was not the large scale population shift we see today. As long as there is a population shift, there will be public security problems. But, as the last ten years have shown, without the population shift, the economy would be stagnant, and there would be no hope of vigorous development in the nation. Therefore, to try and solve the public security problem by restricting the normal flow of the population (even including the normal coming and going of people between villages) in the name of solving public security issues, really leaves one with no leg to stand on. As it will be difficult to gain popular respect for the idea, it follows that it will be difficult to carry out in practice.


Sealed villages are not really necessary. Then, how should we solve the public security problem brought about by the population shift? Broadly speaking,the shift does not come about because people are fond of leaving their native place. Rather, it is because natural resources are not evenly distributed, and the gap between rich and poor has grown great. It goes to show that people flow from undeveloped areas to developed areas, from impoverished districts to well-off districts. Therefore, to solve problems brought about by the population shift, the essential point is to reallocate natural resources and wealth in a more equitable way. To avert the widening split brought about between the wealthy and the poor, is to get at the root of the problem.


Speaking more narrowly, sealed villages is just treating the symptoms of the illness. Although the sealed village strategy may mitigate the security problems of some few villages, can we apply sealed management to the whole city of Beijing? This obviously does not correspond to reality, and future development trends run counter to it. Therefore, rather than sealed villages, we can adopt some of the methods that have been effective, such as increasing patrols and registering residents. However, the key premise to a solution is to reduce the gap between rich and poor, and induce a more equitable distribution of the population.


远亲不如近邻 “close neighbors are more dear than distant relatives”


清明上河图“Along the River during the Qingming Festival.”



乡土中国 Xiangtu Zhongguo, “Home-village China”


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