Urbanization in China

Social Upheaval with unknown Outcome

China presses on with plans to move its economy away from exports and investment to a model based on services and domestic consumption.

 For the state, urbanization will encourage this shift.

Mrs. Wang, 80, and her husband live in Wang village, north of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province. She tells me: "Our village is being demolished and the villagers will have to move to new apartments nearby. We don't know when our house is due for demolition."

From 2010 to 2025, it is estimated that 300 million Chinese now living in rural areas will have to move into cities.

Mr. Yue, 72, lives in Yu Zhuang, south of Zhengzhou. He tells me: "The houses of my sons have been demolished but neither of them received the promised financial compensation. The neighbour's house was torn down as well to make room for a road. I think the government will soon take away my farmland and my house too."

In peripheral areas of big cities, old settlements and small villages are being erased and the arable land is redistributed. Urban space is created and assigned to the former rural residents.

In the northern part of Zhengzhou Wang village is being demolished. Mr. Wang, 82, tells me: "This is the place where the house of my son once stood. Since he is a member of the Chinese Communist Party he was asked to be an example for all other villagers. He therefore had to agree to have his house demolished first. He doesn't live here anymore."

Since farmers in China have no property rights, officials are able to grab agricultural land on the peripheries of urban areas and make money for themselves and their cities by selling it to developers.

In the southern part of Zhengzhou Hu village is being destroyed. The courtyards of these old houses are the children's playground and the walls are used as a kind of chalkboard. A mother tells me: "I am afraid to leave the house in the morning since I can't be sure that it won't be torn down while I am away!"

Urbanization has led to dystopian planned settlements and forests of empty high-rise office and residential buildings around many cities.

In Zhengzhou, Mr. Lu, 94, goes for a short stroll. He tells me: "This quarter is called "Dragon Lake". Part of it is being taken down to make space for an elevated new train line."

The Chinese society finds itself yet again in another state-planned epochal social upheaval with unknown outcome.

As in former times, criticism and resistance are not tolerated.