Thursday, November 03, 2005

China Drops Residency Restrictions -- but does it really matter?

Rich cities, poor countryside, open migration, no squatters. China seems to think it can have it both ways, according to this article from The New York Times, about the plan to end the hukou system that tied residents to their rural areas. But it seems like a game of bait and switch, for the government may revoke residency restrictions in 11 of the country's 23 provinces, but it expects that cities will assume greater control over the inflows. Migrants will still have to register and be accepted by municipalities. Thus, historian Qin Hui, of Qinghua University in Beijing, tells the paper: "The cities will become places where the relatively well off live. Beijing is not going to look like New Delhi, or even like Bangkok."

The move comes in response to growing social disparities and unrest in the rural areas. In addition, China boasts a floating population of 140 million migrant laborers, who are still counted as rural residents even though many of them have resided in cities for a decade or more, working on some of the country's mega-development projects. How will the rule change affect them?

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