Urbanization is about people not building

By Wang Chunlai
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 6, 2013
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In 1991 a popular TV series called "Wailai Mei" (Young Girls from the Countryside) told the story of the first wave of migrant workers to arrive in China's cities. Millions of viewers were touched by struggle of the heroine to overcome poverty through hard work, and were delighted by the happy ending when she married a rich and handsome businessman. Of course things did not work out so well for most young women from the countryside, many of whom ended up returning to their home towns. Nevertheless, the series captured the imagination of many people in rural areas and encouraged them to pursue the dream of a job in the cities where they believed they would find happiness and be treated with dignity.

Two migrant workers sleep in the shade of a tree. [By Wang Chunlai/China.org.cn]

Migrant workers first appeared in the Special Economic Zones of southeast China in the early 1980s, during the first phase of reform and opening up. The next two decades were a boom time for factories in coastal cities and the number of workers migrating from inland provinces soared. In the past decade growth has shifted to China's central and western provinces, as factories relocated inland in search of cheaper land and labor costs. Many people see this as a better model for urbanization, as workers do not have to travel so far and are more likely to achieve stable living conditions in smaller cities close to their home towns.

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