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Cover Stories Series 2015> Accelerating Agricultural Modernization> Archives
UPDATED: August 11, 2014 NO. 14 APRIL 3, 2014
A New Road for Urbanization
China welcomes global companies to participate in its new drive toward urbanization
By Lan Xinzhen

LEARNING SKILLS: Migrant workers from Heze, Shandong Province are trained in electronic maintenance skills in their hometown. China plans to train millions of migrant workers each year to make them more capable of securing employment in the process of the country's urbanization (WANG QIBO)

The State Council, the country's cabinet, released the National New-Type Urbanization Plan (2014-20) on March 16, indicating that China's "new-type" urbanization, after years of discussion, has been officially launched. This plan, containing 31 chapters in eight sections, will impose great influence upon China's urbanization process.

According to the plan, by 2020, 60 percent of the population will be urban residents, while 45 percent of the total population will be residents with hukou, urban household registration. Such urbanization rates may be peculiar to China, since it adopts a dual household registration system between urban and rural residents. Although many people work and live in cities, they cannot really integrate with the city because their hukou are still attached to their hometown. Permanent residents of a city include people both who have and do not have household registration in the city.

Currently, China's permanent urban residents account for 53.7 percent of the total population, while residents with city household registration only make up 36 percent of the total population. That means each year over the next six years, China must raise its urbanization rate in terms of permanent urban residents by 1 percentage point and raise the urbanization rate in terms of residents with city household registration by 1.5 percentage points. Therefore, from now to 2020, about 100 million migrant workers will move to cities. According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, at present, 260 million migrant workers are living and working in cities.

Such large-scale urbanization requires the construction of a huge number of houses and public facilities, which will significantly stimulate the Chinese economy. However, the subsequent pressure on employment and healthcare will also be severe.

Xu Xianping, Vice Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said as a country with a population of 1.3 billion, China has no precedent to follow in urbanization, so it welcomes more international companies to participate in the new-type urbanization taking place in China.

How 'new' it is?

Since the reform and opening-up policy was introduced more than 30 years ago, China has made significant progress in urbanization, but there are also many conflicts and unsolved problems, Xu said at a press conference on March 19. "The drive toward urbanization has now reached a crucial stage. The former extensive expansion approach is no longer appropriate. We must find a new way out."

The new-type urbanization is "new" in six aspects. Firstly, it focuses on people's rights and orderly converting a sizeable proportion of China's rural population into urban residents. In 2013, China had 730 million urban residents, including over 200 million migrant workers and their families. Migrant workers have become the mainstay of China's industrial worker population. However, they cannot enjoy the benefits of urban residents. Hence, the plan requires the relevant government departments to promote the reform of the hukou system and the equalization of basic public services, implement a hukou policy with different eligibility requirements for people under different conditions, and progressively grant urban residency to rural migrant workers and their families who are both willing and able to stay in cities and towns where they have had jobs or carried out business for a long time. A new residence permit system will be introduced to let people who have moved from rural areas to cities but have not yet gained urban residency avail of basic public services. The plan is the first document regulating the proportion of permanent urban residents and the proportion of urban residents carrying a rural household registration. This is the biggest break with the past, and represents the biggest area of progress.

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