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Urbanization makes China Dream coming true
Posted: December-18-2013Adjust font size:

Urbanization is deemed inevitable in the modernization drive. The on-going urbanization campaign steers the China Dream of tens of millions of Chinese people, especially among farmers, for living a well-off life in a modernized society.

On behalf of the State Council, Minister of National Development and Reform Commission Xu Shaoshi delivered a report on China’s urbanization to the 12th NPC Standing Committee on June 26. When reviewing the report, legislators recognized the achievements of urbanization but also pointed out existing or potential problems in the process.

Urbanization: An inevitable choice of modernization

“To live like a townsman” has always been the dream of farmers for generations. Since the establishment of New China especially after the reform and opening-up movement, tens of millions of farmers have migrated into cities, living a city life.

Migration into cities is not a spontaneous choice. As the national economy develops, factories and service industries are in great need of labor forces. At the same time, large numbers of rural labor surplus were freed from once-labor-intensive agriculture sector due to continuous technological progress.

“Urbanization is an inevitable road to China’s modernization, which is a strategic way to meet the changed demand in industry patterns, urban and rural development,” said Minister Xu. Statistics indicate that China’s urban populations increased from 172 million to 712 million with an increasing urbanization rate from 17.92 percent to 52.57 percent from 1978 to 2012.

However, most of the farmers working in cities do not become urban dwellers because they are still fettered by rural hukou – household registration – and their social security is greatly dwarfed by their urban counterparts. Big gaps exist in public services such as job opportunities, medical treatment, education, social security and housing between rural and urban dwellers.

Having stepped into a historic era of building an all-around well-off society, China’s urbanization means not only a population migration but also simultaneous changes in life style and welfare. The 12th Five-Year Plan (2010-15) draws a beautiful blueprint: China will push forward urbanization in an active and stable manner, focusing on gradually transferring farmers qualified for urban household permits into cities.

Developing hand in hand of “industrialization, informatization, urbanization and agricultural modernization”, according to the report of the CPC’s 18th National Congress. Since there is no textbooks on how to realize urbanization in a populous nation like China, different regions have different ideas.

Lü Wei, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, told NPC magazine that urbanization is a national concept, which stresses scientific planning in advance.

Lü’s opinion was shared by many other legislators.

“Materials and populations are of equal importance for the planning of urbanization. Populations transferring from rural areas to cities must be realized according to economic and social plans, especially industrial development planning. Good planning helps us avoid possible mistakes,” said Yin Zhongqing, vice-chairman of NPC Financial and Economic Affairs Committee and member of the NPC Standing Committee.

“We need to make scientific and reasonable plans with layouts of large, medium and small cities, townships and satellite cities. Urban planning should closely relate to regional economy and industrial development to match the capacity of resources and environment. As one of our key tasks, we need to push forward the gradual transferring of rural dwellers into urban dwellers. Ecological culture ideology and principles need to be incorporated into the process of urbanization, which requires an intensive, intelligent, eco-friendly and low-carbon road,” according to the central economic conference convened early this year.

Minister Xu said relevant departments of the State Council have finished urbanization planning after three years of preparations, which is now soliciting suggestions from local governments and related departments. The draft will be submitted to the National People’s Congress for discussions and reviews before publication.

NPC’s investigations and researches: prompt and efficient

Urbanization is not only closely related to modernization, but also to the interests of vast rural residents who moved into cities. To push forward a healthy development of urbanization is one of the key supervision tasks of the NPC Standing Committee.

When making supervision plans of 2013, the 12th NPC Standing Committee reviewed the work report of the State Council about urbanization at the end of June. To fulfill the task, the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee of the NPC set up an investigation and research group in April.

Prior to the on-spot investigations, the group held a meeting, inviting personnel from the State Council, chairmen of the finance and economics committees from four provincial people’s congresses and experts to attend. Two vice chairpersons of the NPC Standing Committee, Yan Junqi and Zhang Ping made speeches at the workshop.

After the workshop, headed by Chairman of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee of the NPC Li Shenglin, an investigation group was dispatched to more than 10 provinces, such as Hubei, Guangdong, Shandong, Zhejiang, Henan, Hunan, Sichuan and Jiangsu, for field studies. The group consists of several vice chairpersons, including Lü Zusan, Peng Sen, Gu Shengzu, Shao Ning and Yin Zhongqing, as well as some committee members Ding Jiye, Yu Gesheng, Lü Wei and Zhu Fazhong.

The key is how to coordinate urban and rural development, that is, how to help farmers obtain steady jobs, enjoy the same social securities and public service as city residents, and how to promote agriculture modernization, improve public services in rural areas and increase earnings of farmers.

Major points of the investigations include, first, the general status, development trend, major problems of the urbanization; second, problems in the process of rural-urban migration, like public services including obstacles and difficulties in employment, pension, medical care, education and social security and hukou administration; third, problems of pushing agriculture modernization; fourth, urbanization experiences and practices from local governments; fifth, suggestions and comments on above problems or other aspects of urbanization.

The group visited towns, streets, communities and villages-in-cities to do investigations and listened to opinions and suggestions from the grassroots. Workshops attended by local departments and experts on urbanization were also organized.

The purpose of researches was to provide reference for the NPC Standing Committee in reviewing the report about urbanization to be delivered by the State Council. By doing so, it strengthens the supervision function of the NPC, helps related departments improve their work, improve urbanization quality and push forward the decision making of the central government.

To save time and improve efficiency, the group was divided into six small teams, each with 2-3 members. “By dispatching investigation teams to 10 provinces and covering a wide range of topics, the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee has put lots of efforts, time and resources,” said Hou Yibin, a member of the committee.

“In general, we got a lot of useful information from this investigation. Local governments accumulated rich experiences in urbanization in recent years as well as encountered many problems and obstacles,” Peng Sen, vice chairman of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee of the NPC, said.

On June 29 when the third meeting of the 12th NPC Standing Committee convened, investigations reports were presented as references for members and representatives of the legislators to review the State Council report.

Development quality crucial to urbanization

The 12th Five-Year Plan proposes that by the end of 2015 the urbanization rate will reach 51.5 percent, which has been achieved so far. However, a series of problems have emerged due to the fast development.

The first is the misuse of farmlands. “Some local governments randomly set up industrial and development zones, which lead to the urbanization of lands faster than that of populations,” Peng Sen said. China’s industrial land coverage rate is between 0.3 and 0.6, quite lower than that of developed countries whose index is usually above 1.

Vice President of Nanjing Planning and Design Research Institute Cheng Maoji said that cities have given excessive emphasis on the construction of industrial areas, leading to inadequate input into the rebuilding of old districts. Therefore, in many cities, modern new districts co-exist with ragged old areas. Moreover, social security has been improved continuously for urban residents, large amount of migrant workers have less opportunities to enjoy cities’ public services. Industrial structure of some cities adjusted slowly due to limited input into infrastructure and urban environment.

Several interviewees said the over-enthusiastic and rapid urbanization in some local governments displayed their understanding of urbanization incorrect and inadequate. “Urbanization is a process of historical development, not a man-made movement and cannot be sped up simply by strategic pushing,” Peng said. So many people have put too much expectation on urbanization, taking it as an important impetus to expand domestic demands and increase economic development.

Peng said that urbanization was the intensive and efficient utilization of lands and the following problems should be taken into consideration: how to use industrialization to support urbanization, how to improve utilization efficiency of industrial lands, how to ensure the smooth transformation of development and industrial zones and settle related labor surplus.

“Undertake an intensive urbanization road,” Cheng echoed, adding that China had more populations and less land. He suggested planning the development of cities according to land, resources and environment carrying capacity and economic level. “We need to change our current outward urban expansion into inward updating and improvement. More efforts should be made on the improvement of efficiency of land use and rebuilding of ‘urban villages’ and ragged old districts.”

“Urbanization should be urbanization of populations, not only that of objects and lands,” Lü Zushan said to reporters. The government must follow the natural law when pushing forward urbanization instead of seeking higher rates or blind city expansion despite of input. The so-called urbanization of populations refers that rural residents could easily find jobs in cities and enjoy the same public services as their city counterparts. Lü Wei, who also participated in the investigation and research, said, “We should improve urbanization quality, build scientific urbanization evaluation system, and evaluate urbanization through public service, land utilization rate and non-city worker employment rate etc.”

Balance interests of rural and urban areas

Urbanization must base on the development of industries. “Urbanization is the result of industrialization and economic development. It is the natural result of change of farmers’ life and work style, not the result of man-made production and pushing,” Yin Zhongqing told reporters.

China has wide geographical coverage with big regional gaps, especially eastern and mid-western areas. This means urbanization in different areas cannot copy the same mode with the same speed.

“Urbanization is closely connected with industrial development and according to their different circumstances,” said Lü Wei, who joined the investigation group to Zhejiang and Henan provinces. Zhejiang is one of the eastern developed provinces and Henan one of mid-China agricultural provinces, both of which have adopted urbanization strategies suitable to their own actual conditions. For example, Zhejiang accelerates the integration between urban and rural areas through modular and private economy. However, Henan focuses more on developing central townships through improved public services.

The investigation groups went to both eastern and Midwestern provinces, both northern and southern provinces to get a comprehensive understanding of nationwide urbanization. They held that a basic purpose of urbanization is to reduce gaps between cities and rural areas and to gradually eliminate the “urban-rural two-layer” structure.

“Some local governments focus more on urban development instead of the coordinated and integrated development of both urban and rural areas. It is not correct if we focus on only urban development and take no consideration of economic development and modernization of rural areas,” Peng Sen said.

“Urbanization rate doesn’t mean everything. The most important is whether urban-rural gap is reduced, farmers’ earnings improved, rural basic facilities and public service enhanced, which should be the main indexes of urbanization,” Lü Zushan told reporters. Any actions that harm interests of farmers and weaken the development of agriculture and rural development are not allowed for urbanization.

Now more and more local governments realized that coordinated development between rural and urban areas is the only way to a sustainable way of urbanization and they adjusted their development strategies accordingly. For example, after the 12th Five-Year Plan, Jiangsu Province extended their strategy into integrated urban-rural development because “urban-rural two-layer” structure hinders the shifting of farmers to city residents and the urbanization process is greatly impacted due to the imbalance between urban-rural industrial and labor structures.

Therefore, investigation groups suggested that breakthroughs should be made through marketing measures, including reforming hukou, finance and tax, social security and land management systems so as to build up an integrated urban-rural economic and social development. (NPC)

 

 

This October 8, 2011 picture shows visitors feed fishes at a park in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province. The city launched a health campaign to renovate old and filthy villages and merged 716 natural villages into 290 communities for a better administration. Zhang Jiancheng

 

Above: Cao Shizhen, a farm worker with the Xishan Farm of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, coaches his daughter in homework, at his home on June 21. Cao and his colleagues moved into new houses in townships recently because of the strategic shift of the corps from stationing troops to open up wasteland to defending the boundary with the development of urbanization.

Middle: Cao Shizhen’s new house in Fenghuotai Township, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Top: Farm worker Cao Shizhen weeds the farmland. Photos by Wang Fei

Source: NPCEditor: Shen
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