China’s urban population exceeds rural for first time ever
“Just over 680 million now live in cities – 51.27 per cent of China’s entire population of nearly 1.35 billion.
Most have moved during two decades of boom in search of economic opportunities, and the historic mass migration from fields to office and apartment blocks ends the country’s centuries-long agrarian status.
But the rapid modernisation and demand for improved living standards is piling extra pressure on society and the already blighted environment, experts claim.
With 75 per cent of Chinese expected to be living in cities within 20 years, the demand for more transport, energy, water and other vital infrastructure is set to test resources and city planners.
“Urbanisation is an irreversible process … It will have a huge impact on China’s environment, and on social and economic development,” Li Jianmin, head of the Institute of Population and Development Research at Nankai University told reporters.
In the 12 months from December 2010 to December 2011, a further 21 million arrived in cities – more than the population of Sri Lanka – while rural inhabitants dropped, the statistics show.
Many of those settling down in urban areas are migrant workers – people moving from the country to cities to seek economic empowerment.
This transient population of cheap labour, put at nearly 221 million by a national census last April, helped turn China into the world’s second-largest economy in just three decades.
Months following the consensus, another government report said more than 100 million farmers would move to cities by 2020.
The influx is seen as having a destabilising effect on urban society, according to experts.”
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