China : 26 million rural migrants to the cities, returned home jobless

Massimo suburbanstudio at
Mon Feb 2 18:05:02 GMT 2009

Downturn in China leaves 26 million out of work

Chen Xiwen, director at the Office of the Central Leading Group on Rural 
told a news conference that a government survey showed that 15.3% of an 
130 million rural migrants to the cities had returned home jobless. 
Adding in new entrants
to the rural labour market gave a total of around 26 million unemployed 
and potentially
restive people in the countryside. Some economists believe this is an 
underestimate and
say the real figure could ultimately reach 40 million.


But where are these people going exactly??

In China - officially 43 percent urban in 1993 - the number of official 
cities has soared from 193 to 640 since 1978,
but the great metropolises, despite extraordinary growth, have actually 
declined in relative share of urban population.
It is instead the small- to medium-sized cities and recently 'city-ized' 
towns that have absorbed the majority of rural
labor-power made redundant by post-1979 market reforms.

The countryside is urbanizing in situ: villages become more like market 
and Xiang towns and countty towns and small cities
become more like large cities. In many cases rural people no longer have 
to migrate to the cities, it migrates to them.
The result of this collision between the rural and the urban in China... 
is a hermaphroditic landscape, a partially urbanized
countryside that may be a significant new path of human settlement and 
development... a form neither urban nor rural but a
blending of the two wherein a dense web of transactions ties large urban 
cores to their surrounding regions.

German Architect and urban theorist Thomas Sieverts proposes that this 
diffuse urbanism, which he calls 'Zwischenstadt'
(in-between city) is rapidly becoming the defining landscape of the 
twenty-first century regardless of earlier urban histories.

Gregory Guldin "What's a peasant to do? Village becoming town in 
Southern China" Boulder (2001) p 13 - 17

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