Still relying on apartment blocks for most urban residences
China’s urban population exceeded its rural population in 2011 for the first time in the nation’s history, the government’s National Bureau of Statistics reported, continuing a trend that has helped drive its rapid economic growth but poses an increasingly difficult social transition for scores of millions of Chinese.
The statistics bureau stated that China counted 690.79 million urbanites at the year’s end, an increase of 21 million, compared to 656.56 million rural-dwellers, down 14.56 million.
The shift furnishes a ready labor force for the factories that power China’s export-based economy, and better wages in cities have contributed to raising hundreds of millions from poverty. But it also has fueled an urban underclass of migrants and jobless without proper housing and social services, and the hollowing of the countryside has left the elderly without family close by and deprived farms of needed labor.
Barely 10 percent of Chinese lived in cities when Communist forces took control of the Chinese mainland in 1949, Reuters reported. Globally, about 51 percent of people now live in cities, including 51.27 percent of Chinese citizens. The United States counts 82 percent of its residents as city-dwellers.
It took the United States – even with our waves of immigrants – about 140 years to reach 50% city-dwellers. Growing the needed infrastructure in parallel most of the way. China has blown through that process in 60 years. There are advantages and disadvantages to that rate – not counting the difference in culture between a New World society a bit over 200 years old versus a culture estblished in place for thousands of years.
They have the advantage of examining methods of growing traffic management and communications after seeing what works and what doesn’t. They’re still stuck into the same mistakes we made with motor vehicles booming in cities, underestimating the siren call of mobility at the family and individual level. They’re avoiding our mistakes made with relying on highway transport for commercial goods and building a national network of high-speed trains. That reduces fuel costs and pollution in the long run. Much closer to the European model.
It will be interesting to see where the next 5-year plan settles goals and strategies, this year. Certainly, the government recognizes the needs for sensible energy production – which must be balanced against an economy which they’re also throttling back towards a domestic base and a larger percentage of consumer goods for that domestic market. But, communications systems will be specially interesting. Will they build out fibre and copper or place a greater reliance on RF and cellular/satellite communications?