Wednesday, March 26, 2014

China Plans to Become More Urban

The New York Times endorses (with a few caveats) China's plan to increase the number of its people living in cities by 2020:

the government has ordered up yet another migration that, it says, will further economic growth. The plan calls for expanding existing cities and for creating new towns and the housing, roads, rail lines and other public amenities that go with them. Addressing the frequent criticism that many new buildings are constructed poorly, the government has even promised to improve building standards as part of its plan. The overall goal is to increase the number of people living in cities to 60 percent by 2020.

But there are problems that the new plan hasn’t adequately addressed. One is the fact that local governments exercise great, even decisive, power over the lives of ordinary Chinese, requiring a hukou, or urban registration, of anyone who wants access to health, education and other public services. Just 36 percent of Chinese have a city hukou now, and rural migrants often find themselves denied services.

[...] Another set of problems has to do with farmers and their land. Because the Chinese government owns all the land, rural residents have only the right to use the plots that they farm and cannot easily sell or transfer those rights to other people. That keeps many farmers tied to their land. The government should make it easier for farmers to buy and sell usage rights in a transparent market.

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