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The New Urbanites


Text by You Shanshan

As plows began streaming through the fields of Zhao-jia Village in Shandong Province this April, Zhao Rui remained on the sidelines. His visage revealed a longing to join his parents and ease their workload, but he didn’t know how. Zhao left home seeking work in Guangdong when he was 18 and returned to the county seat at age 25 as a businessman specializing in steel recycling.

Zhao is one example of the millions of migrant workers who are kindling dramatic change in over 3,000 Chinese cities. The tide of urbanization has tipped the population balance between urban and rural areas, bringing unprecedented migration to cities.

Urbanization Benefits

Official statistics indicate that China’s urban population has reached 51.27 percent of the total. The country has witnessed dramatic economic progress thanks in large part to the efforts of a huge number of migrant workers. “Urbanization serves as one of the engines for China’s economic growth,” remarked Professor Zhou Qiren from the China Center for Economic Research of Peking University at the 1st Nobel Economists Summit of China (NESC).

Urbanization has brought a higher concentration of essential production labor, while at the same time increasing demand for infrastructure investment, which in turn stimulates economic growth. As formerly poverty-stricken people gain better earning power, it also promotes more widespread consumption. Development in other parts of the world has demonstrated that one percent increase in urbanization will lead to two percent of growth in consumption.

Zhao Rui has seen the economic benefits of urbanization first-hand. His parents work the fields year-round but earn only a few thousand yuan for their efforts, while he brings home over 2,000 yuan a month by working in the city. And yet earning power still isn’t his top motivation. “My daughter will grow up in a city, which offers her a promising future, much better than mine!” Like so many economic climbers before him, Zhao understands that benefits to the next generation increase exponentially.

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