The East Asia Forum published an article on urbanisation in China. By Wang Xiaolu, published on 12 May 2014, accessed on 13 May 2014.
China is experiencing rapid urbanisation. It is the main engine of economic growth in contemporary China, although it is facing some severe challenges. A major problem is that the majority of the 234 million rural migrants in urban areas have not obtained urban permanent resident status, blocked by the hukou or urban household registration system. The newly released urbanisation blueprint by the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council, National New-Type Urbanization Plan 2014-2020, announced the acceleration of the process of turning rural migrants into urban citizens.
This paper provides a systematic analysis of the way shifts in property utilization rights in China induced another sequence of institutional changes that led to the rise of rural-urban labor migration from 1980 to 1984, a critical period in the country’s market transition. I show that the 1980s’ Household Responsibility System (HRS), which brought family farming back from the communal system, endowed rural households not only with land use rights, but also with de facto labor allocation rights. These shifts in property relationspromoted a growth in agricultural market size as well as the emergence of intraprovincial non-hukou rural-urban migration, which may have made labor retention policies such as the small township strategy ineffective, and may have given the government an incentive to deregulate its subsequent labor market policy.