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Thursday, June 20, 2013

China plans vast urbanization program

vientiteollisuus The building frenzy is on display in places like Liaocheng, which grew up as an entrepot for local wheat farmers in the North China Plain. It’s now ringed by scores of 20-story towers housing now-landless farmers who have been thrust into city life. Aggressive state spending is planned on roads, hospitals, schools, community centers – which could cost $600 billion a year, according to economists’ estimates. In addition, vast sums will be needed to pay for education, health care and pensions of the ex-farmers.

Liaocheng (Chinese: ; pinyin: Liáochéng), also known as the Water City, is a prefecture-level city in western Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It borders the provincial capital of Jinan to the southeast, Dezhou to the northeast, Tai'an to the south, and the provinces of Hebei and Henan to the west. The Grand Canal flows through the city center. During the Song dynasty, the area of present-day Liaocheng included the prefectures of Bozhou (博州) and Jizhou (濟州).

Top-down efforts to quickly transform entire societies have often come to grief. Urbanization has already proved one of the most  wrenching changes in China’s 35-years of economic transition.

Land disputes account for thousands of protests each year. Huge problems related to the relocations and transitions have to be tackled. Some of these problems could include chronic urban unemployment if jobs are not available, and more protests from skeptical farmers unwilling to move.

Instead of creating wealth, urbanization could result in a permanent underclass in big Chinese cities and the destruction of rural cultures and religions.  Some young people feel lucky to have jobs that pay survival wages of about $150 a month. Others spend their days in pool halls and video-game arcades.

China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to  move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years. This transformative process could set off a new wave of growth or saddle the country with problems for generations to come, writes International Herald Tribune.

The ultimate goal of the government’s modernization plan is to fully integrate 70 percent of the country’s population, or roughly 900 million people, into city living by 2025. Currently, only half that number are.

This will decisively change the character of China. The Party has shifted priorities, mainly to find a new source of growth for slowing economy that depends increasingly on a consuming class of city dwellers.

China has long been home to both some of the world’s tiniest villages and its most congested, polluted examples of urban sprawl.

The government is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers.  So large is the scale that number of brand-new City dwellers will approach the total urban population of the United States.

Across China, bulldozers are leveling villages that date to long-ago dynasties. Towers now sprout skyward from dusty plains and verdant hillsides.The shift is occurring so quickly, and the potential costs are so high, that some fear rural china is once again the site of radical social engineering.

 

Source: Wikipedia,  BEJING | By Brian Johnson, International Herald Tribune

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