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Transforming a population, overcoming “Half-urbanization”

March 12, 2014

konjaku: Among the words created by adding the suffix “hua” (化, to change, transform) such as 城镇化 to urbanize, 绿化 to greenify, 现代化 to modernize, etc., one example refers (possibly) to the transformation of people, 市民化.People who move to cities from rural areas are, at a certain point, to “transform into urban residents” (市民化). From the government’s point of view, this transformation is an essential part of urbanization, necessary for China to reach the next stage of development. For at least some of the people, this may mean giving up the security of having a homestead in a village, exchanging it to live in a high-rise residential complex, with new expenses matched by uncertain possibilities for future employment and a steady income. However, their apprehension is partially addressed by a government promise to provide for them the superior public services and better social security net given to urban residents. The question of how much the government estimates this will cost will be taken up in later posts.

In any case, the project to transform people is ambitious in many ways.


Deciphering the resolution made in the third plenary session of the CPC 18th Central Committee (held Nov 9-12, 2013)


As Xinhua reported on 01-04-2014,  the third plenary session of the CPC 18th Central Committee  Congress issued a resolution regarding the transfer of the agricultural population to become urban residents. Step by step, and in accord with existing conditions, the rural population will completely enter into the social security system of urban residents, as they take up residence in cities. The old age insurance and medical treatment insurance of those who live in rural villages must be inserted into the urban social security system. A finance mechanism must be set up to handle payments going to this transferred population.

To transfer the agricultural population to become urban residents is a major task facing the new urbanization effort in our country. This is an important challenge which must be achieved in order that our economy will continue to exhibit healthy development, and to enable us to successfully modernize. As experience has shown, there is no country in the world which has not first urbanized in order to bring about modernization. At present, urbanized areas of the developed nations is over 70%. The US stands at 82%, Japan is 91%, and Germany is 74%. These exceed our country by 10 percentage points or more. Urbanization follows in the wake of industrial progress, and the agricultural population over time continuously shifts to non-agricultural industries, moves to cities and towns. This causes the population of cities and towns to get larger, the scale of cities increases, the proportion of the population in cities steadily gets larger. Therefore, if there is no agricultural population shifting to the cities, urbanization will not come about. A major task of driving urbanization forward is to shift the agricultural population to non-agricultural industries, and bring them into cities as urban residents. Since the reform and opening to the outside world, the pace of urbanization in our country has been very rapid, but in perspective, the quality has not been high, and the transfer of the agricultural population to become urban residents has lagged behind. In 2012, in cities the number of residents who had lived in the same place for six months or more was 52.6%, while that of registered permanent residents was 35.3%,  a difference of more than 17 percentage points. Between 2000 and 2012, the  difference in percentage between these two groups went from 10.5 to 17.3%. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, at present the percent of the agricultural population that has urbanized [become permanent urban residents] is 40%. A large number of those who have migrated to the cities, while adding to the urban population, have yet to receive the status and privileges of urban permanent residents. They do not receive the same treatment as urban residents when it comes to getting jobs, sending their children to schools, receiving medical treatment, finding housing, and accessing public services. They do not have stable lives and livelihoods, they are in a state of being “half-urbanized.” Not only does this affect their lawful rights and interests, it also has a negative influence on social harmony and the quality of urbanization. A large number of children are left behind in the rural areas, women and the elderly also stay behind to look after the homestead. This causes a series of social problems, the direct result of “half-urbanization.” Therefore, we need to accelerate the drive to urbanize the transitioning population. This is an urgent need which must be met in order that our national economy and the urbanization project will continue to develop in a healthy manner.

It is necessary to set up a complete system to deal with the transitioning population. The first need is to innovate population management, to speed up reform of the census registration. There is a need to let go of restrictions to settle in autonomous towns, small and medium size cities, and at the same time, to strictly control the scale of the population in very large cities.  We must accelerate the formation of a management system to unify the census registry and stabilize conditions of residency and occupation for the transitioning population. Step by step, over the long term, they will gradually achieve registered permanent residence in cities, and become full urban residents.

The second need is to steadily push forward with basic public services to cover all those who take up residence in cities. The old age insurance and medical treatment insurance of those who live in rural villages must be inserted into the urban social security system, to ensure that the monies they paid into the system while living in villages will be counted. The basic safeguards of urban residents: old age insurance, medical treatment insurance, unemployment insurance, and industrial injury insurance, must be given to the transitioning population. They must enjoy all the same rights to services as urban residents.

The third need is to set up a comprehensive system to share the responsibility for the net cost of transitioning and urbanizing the agricultural population. The central government and the provincial level administrations must enlarge the fund for this project. As those living in cities, and those who are not yet registered permanent residents in the city are urbanized, these government agencies must set up a financial system that splits up the responsibility for the funds and payments. Since public services expenditures required by this transitioning population as they urbanize are many, the ability to offer these services must be strengthened and enlarged.

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