China often talks of itself as a nation of farmers, and Mao Zedong was proud of the agrarian nature of his 1949 revolution. But in an historic shift, those rural days are over for most people.
In 2011, China became a nation in which there were more city slickers than rural dwellers. That’s according to prominent academics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences which published its population verdict in the Blue Book issued in late December.
Li Peilin, head of the academy’s Sociology Research Institute, said the shift marked a profound change for the country, the China News Service reported.
China’s latest official population census, released last year, is based on figures from 2010 that indicated 49.68% of the total population lived in cities. But by the end of 2011 that had shifted, with “over 50%” in cities, Li and his colleagues calculated, based on urbanisation rates.
“This change is not a simple one of urban-rural percentages, but touches deeply on lifestyle, production factors, work arrangements, consumption patterns and even values,” Li said in comments picked up by Xinhua.
“Urbanisation will become a major engine in China’s social and economic development and in our industrialisation,” Li concluded.
The trend is more than likely to continue. Up to 300 million more people – the equivalent of the population of the United States – are expected to move into urban areas, including smaller towns, over the next 20 years.
China presently has about 240 million migrant workers, many of whom want to bring their families with them to the cities. About 40% have so far, with the remainder leaving their spouses, parents or children behind in the countryside.
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