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China Speeds up Pace of Urbanization
A sample survey recently conducted in 16 southern Chinese cities showed that almost all the cities had expanded and urbanized through readjustment of their administrative divisions.

By merging with neighboring Huadu and Panyu cities, the area of Guangzhou, a leading metropolis in southern China, now sprawls to 7,400 square kilometers, bigger than the area of Shanghai, the country's largest industrial center. Its population has surpassed 10 million, approaching that of Beijing.

Meanwhile, Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, has been enlarged by 3,000 square kilometers after it was amalgamated with Xiaoshan and Yuhang cities. Its population has increased to 4.5 million.

Lu Zushan, vice-governor of Zhejiang Province, described cities as symbols of advanced productive forces and modern civilization.

He vowed his province will build a number of medium-sized cities with each having a population between 500,000 and 1 million and some ultra-large cities each having a population between 1 million and 2.5 million in the next few years.

However, population is not the only criterion upon which to judge the rate of urbanization. Urbanization is a process of social development, a Chinese expert on urbanization said.

With the acceleration of urbanization, numerous farmers have become urban dwellers. Their living environment, way of life and living standard has improved greatly.

In Dongguan, a rising industrial center in Guangdong Province, it is hard to distinguish urban districts from rural areas. Farmers-turned-workers lead a modern city life, and urban districts are dotted with villages.

Along with urbanization, large scale construction is being carried out in many parts of China. Jiaxing City in east China's Zhejiang Province is working to expand its existing city proper from 25 to 50 sq. km. Guangzhou is linked with the Pearl River Delta by highway trunks.

However, the urbanization rate in China was only 36 percent compared with the world average of 48 percent by 2000. The low rate of urbanization, led by traditional methods of development and the system of restricted registration for permanent residents in urban districts, hampers the country's industrial and economic development.

In addition, China lags behind developed countries in both population and economy. Statistics show the number of cities with a population of 1 million or above in China is 5 percent lower than the world average.

The national wealth gained by Chinese metropolises is far below that of developed countries. The gross domestic of product (GDP) of Shanghai, China's leading industrial center, makes up 4.6 percent of the country's total, while the GDP of Tokyo makes up 18.6 percent of Japan's total and that of Seoul makes up 26 percent of the country's total.

A government report recently released on the development of cities in China said the rate of urbanization in China is to rise from the present 36 percent to 70 percent by 2050. Under this plan, about 10 million or 12 million people will annually shift from rural areas to cities in the upcoming 47 years.

Consequently, China will meet great challenges in areas such as employment, aging population, social security system, overuse of natural resources, environmental deterioration, imbalanced regional development.

(eastday.com February 10, 2003)

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