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Leaving The Land: China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million from Farms into Cities

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Chongqing, one of the fastest-growing and biggest cities on earth, with a population of 29 million. The old buildings under the high-rises are destined for demolition in the near future. Photo by Justin Jin. See slideshow here.

Almost every province has large-scale programs to move farmers into housing towers, with the farmers’ plots then given to corporations or municipalities to manage.

By Ian Johnson
New York Times
June 15, 2013

Excerpt:

Beijing — 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 — a transformative event that could set off a new wave of growth or saddle the country with problems for generations to come.

The government, often by fiat, 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 the number of brand-new Chinese city dwellers will approach the total urban population of the United States — in a country already bursting with megacities.

This will decisively change the character of China, where the Communist Party insisted for decades that most peasants, even those working in cities, remain tied to their tiny plots of land to ensure political and economic stability. Now, the party has shifted priorities, mainly to find a new source of growth for a slowing economy that depends increasingly on a consuming class of city dwellers.

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. Over the past decades, the Communist Party has flip-flopped on peasants’ rights to use land: giving small plots to farm during 1950s land reform, collectivizing a few years later, restoring rights at the start of the reform era and now trying to obliterate small landholders.

Read the complete article here.

See photo slideshow here.