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Massive West-to-east Migration Proposed
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A senior government consultant has suggested a massive "west-to-east" migration campaign to speed up China's urbanization process.

Zhou Ganzhi, a leading adviser with the Ministry of Construction, told China Daily that the migration of up to 100 million western farmers from western regions to economically developed eastern urban areas is feasible.

"It is a strategy which makes things easier for both sides," said Zhou.

The migration can guarantee an ample labor supply for the further economic development of eastern regions. Meanwhile, development pressure can be reduced in economically and ecologically fragile western areas because of the drop in population.

The migrants are expected to settle mainly in the three city belts of the Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas and the Beijing-Tianjin area, Zhou said while attending the China city and town development forum over the weekend.

China, with a population of about 1.3 billion, has about 220 million surplus laborers in rural areas and most of them live in the central and western regions.

Zhou, also a former vice-minister of construction, said he will lead a team to conduct more detailed research work on the strategy, which will help people in the nation's western and eastern regions enjoy a more balanced development.

Peng Zhenwei, a professor at Shanghai's Tongji University agreed with the feasibility of Zhou's suggestion.

"But we need more work," said Peng. "We should first conduct research on the maximum number of people who should be allowed to settle in those cities."

He said this will be a tough job as, so far, no specialists in China have been working on population research in the city belts.

About 40 million, 70 million and 45 million residents respectively live in China's three urban belts, in the Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas and the Beijing-Tianjin area.

"But in reality, such migration has already begun," said Peng.

Thousands of college graduates from western regions are working in eastern cities, despite some of them having no household registration there.

Meanwhile, up to 50 million rural surplus laborers are earning money outside their own provinces and most of them are working in eastern regions.

Experts said household registration in eastern regions should cover graduates and farmers-turned-workers as soon as possible.

"In addition, our suggesting migration does not mean ignoring western development," said Peng.

He said big cities, such as the provincial capitals of Xi'an and Kunming, and urban belts such as Chengdu-Chongqing, should play a bigger role as regional centers and attract more farmers.

(China Daily December 8, 2003)

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