Reading Assignment — Urban Migration

Imagine, if you will, every single person in the United States packing up everything and moving — not just to a different house, but to a different city or state.  Pretty hard to imagine, right?

But that’s exactly what’s happening in China today, as urbanization continues at an unprecedented pace.

David Pierson, of The Los Angeles Times, describes what this means for China in an article titled “China Grapples with Mass Migration from Villages to the City:”

It’s been called the largest migration in human history: An estimated 320 million Chinese will leave small villages and rural counties to start new lives in cities over the next decade and a half.

It’s the equivalent of everyone in the United States packing their belongings and changing addresses.

Urbanization is the linchpin to China’s development. It raises standards of living and encourages residents to become consumers.

But as Tom Miller describes in his upcoming book, “Urban Billion” (Zed Books), the process thus far has been messy and uneven.

Pollution is choking Chinese cities. Breakneck growth has sapped urban areas of their character. Millions of new city dwellers work at low-wage jobs and don’t have access to social services.

“Simply moving a farmer into a flat does not make him an economically significant consumer,” writes Miller, the Beijing-based managing editor of the China Economic Quarterly. “On the contrary, if policymakers do not extend social welfare to migrants and fail to integrate them into the urban economy, greater urbanization could merely create a gargantuan urban underclass.”

From what I can see this urban underclass already exists.

As they say, read the whole thing.