Friday, June 20, 2008

China Urbanization

While China’s urbanization began almost 4,000 years ago—in fact, Neolithic villages had begun to appear in river valleys a thousand years before that—the country is now urbanizing on an unprecedented scale.

By the end of the 1940s, China had 69 cities. In 2007, it had 670 cities, almost ten times as many. Increasing urbanization is the result of migration from villages, as well as natural increase, leading to the expansion of small towns which have been reclassified as cities.

Of these cities, 89 have a population of over a million, dwarfing the numbers in other large countries such as the United States with 37 of this size and India with 32.

In a rapidly urbanizing world, China is expected to play an important role, chiefly because of its size and the speed at which it is changing. In 1980, China’s urban population was 191 million. By 2007, it was 594 million, excluding migrants.

About half of China’s population now lives in cities. As policymakers meet at the World Cities Summit in June, China’s phenomenal urbanization will be a likely focus, both in terms of coping strategies and the benefits and challenges the country has experienced.

“As more people move to urban areas, not just in China, but elsewhere in Asia and Africa, the focus of development activities must be twofold,” said Justin Lin, World Bank Chief Economist, “Rural development which remains critical in agriculture-based economies; and rapid urban industrial development which is and will be the principal source of growth for the national economy.”

Source: World Bank

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