June 16, 2013

"China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years..."

"The government, often by fiat, is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers...."
Across China, bulldozers are leveling villages that date to long-ago dynasties. Towers now sprout skyward from dusty plains and verdant hillsides....

Instead of creating wealth, urbanization could result in a permanent underclass in big Chinese cities and the destruction of a rural culture and religion....

“For old people like us, there’s nothing to do anymore,” said He Shifang, 45, a farmer from the city of Ankang in Shaanxi Province who was relocated from her family’s farm in the mountains. “Up in the mountains we worked all the time. We had pigs and chickens. Here we just sit around and people play mah-jongg.”

77 comments:

David said...

Put the proles in cities and they can be strangled and starved. Country proles have this annoying ability of being able to fend for themselves.

Levi Starks said...

It all sounds so humane.
We should try treating our poor inner city this way.
They'll be totally dependent on us, it'll be fun.

edutcher said...

They had to do something with all those Potemkin villages.

PS Isn't Choom's wet dream to have the power the President of Red China has?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Agenda 21, Chinese style.

All the better to control you with. As stated. The rural people are independent and generally can take care of themselves. Don't need a top down, all controlling centralized government.

Can't have that, now. Can we.

bagoh20 said...

Well, it is a novel approach to progress. We'll see how it works out. Unfortunately, China has an unparalleled record of doing really big centralized programs that kill millions. I hope they remember to check the formulas in that spreadsheet first.

YoungHegelian said...

One would think that the Chinese government, of all the governments on Earth. would know just how disastrous top-down decisions that affect the lives of tens of millions in the country-side can be.

Apparently not.

I suspect that if the CCP still had a large cadre of old guys like Deng Xiaoping at the top who barely survived the last couple of top-down disasters, this wouldn't be happening. The princelings have no memory what happened back then.

campy said...

The princelings have no memory what happened back then.

Don't worry. This time it'll work.

This time they have the right people in charge.

St. George said...

"Stanley Kurtz, who has lectured at Harvard and the University of Chicago, wrote an article for the stalwart conservative journal National Review that appeared under the provocative headline "Burn Down the Suburbs?" It opened with a zinger: "President Obama is not a fan of America's suburbs. Indeed, he intends to abolish them." Kurtz's article was in many ways a rehash of observations made previously by Joel Kotkin, a writer who specializes in analyzing demographic shifts in cities and suburbs. In 2010 Kotkin, a former New York Times columnist, wrote on his blog that "for the first time in memory, the suburbs are under a conscious and sustained attack from Washington." He later told one interviewer that the Obama administration was "the first anti-suburban administration" in American history."

Louise said...
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Louise said...
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Alex said...

Think of this as the "Great Chinese Culling of the 2020s". China needs to cull about 50% of its population as it doesn't have enough arable land to feed more then 500-600 million.

edutcher said...

campy said...

The princelings have no memory what happened back then.

Don't worry. This time it'll work.

This time they have the right people in charge.


Just like here.

They have top men.

Top.

Men.

Unknown said...

"President Obama is not a fan of America's suburbs. Indeed, he intends to abolish them." Maybe that is a dream of his....but he is not going to make it a reality. The bozo is gone in three short years and right now and till the end of his scandal-ridden regime....he is effectively lame-ducked.

tim maguire said...

YoungHegelian said...One would think that the Chinese government, of all the governments on Earth. would know just how disastrous top-down decisions that affect the lives of tens of millions in the country-side can be.

I suspect they are not too concerned about a few tens of millions of deaths. Might even be a feature, not a bug.

Tim said...

China is just using zoning laws.

What could possibly go wrong?

Louise said...
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Tim said...

"I hope they remember to check the formulas in that spreadsheet first."

You presume that for the Chinese, killing millions is a bug, and not a feature?

Louise said...
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Tim said...

Tim Maguire @ 2:47 pm.m beat me to the punch.

My apologies.

rcocean said...

Come to America Baby! We need 50 million Chinese, the more the merrier. Illegally, legally, what the dif?

I suggest, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

FleetUSA said...

I predict this will not end well for the Chinese. Especially as some of these "empty" cities are already built. Rebellion?

Phil 3:14 said...

Thomas Friedman approves.

traditionalguy said...

How do you say Big Brother in Chinese?

If thepeasants produced their own food, then they were not a problem.

But if Capitalism, Red Army style, plans to buy food from overseas colonies, then the farmer's land becomes precious for high level Party Development graft aimed at creating many more Chinese billionaires.

I have to go now and do all of my weeks shopping at The Chinese Overseas Trading Company( a/k/a Costco).





Achilles said...

Our betters in Washington DC approve. The DC cadre is forced to use more subtle methods. China just rolls in the bulldozers and troops. DC uses A massive redistribution of wealth and regulatory authority from the rest of the country to DC. Same effects in the end.

They could have done better than China but they had to dispose of that pesky 10th amendment first.

bagoh20 said...
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Michael K said...

Blogger Levi Starks said...

" It all sounds so humane.
We should try treating our poor inner city this way."

We did. In Chicago they were called the Robert Taylor Homes. After they became violent slums, they were finally torn down.

Pogo said...

Fuck free will. People are mere ants.

edutcher said...

Michael K said...

It all sounds so humane.
We should try treating our poor inner city this way.


We did. In Chicago they were called the Robert Taylor Homes. After they became violent slums, they were finally torn down.


I thought that was Altgeld Gardens.

PS I think those are in every city.

Tari said...

It's stories like this that make me think I'm wasting my 13 year old's time, making him study Mandarin. He'll finally make it to China to visit, see some stupid project like this, bust out with "you gotta be f*ckin' kidding me - what are you doing, you morons?!" and best case scenario, he'll be deported and banned from China for life. So much for those language skills...

ricpic said...

China is Obama & Company's dream future.

What do you think all this glorification of urban biking is all about? The beauteous ones hate HATE HATE the average Joe driving down the highway enjoying himself, unfenced and FREE!!!

jr565 said...
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jr565 said...

Hope the whistle blower gets a sucky apartment.

ricpic said...

The average Joe might be driving down the highway and on the spur of the moment for no reason! he might turn off onto a DIRT ROAD!! and fall off the grid and then where would the beauteous ones be?!?!?!

madAsHell said...

One of my co-workers was brought up in Shanghai. She recently sold her house, and moved to a high rise condo. I checked the county parcel website from the condo. Over half the names in the condo were Chinese.

Bob_R said...

I'd recommend Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott if you want to read about lots of past attempts at the same damned thing. Not to give anything away, but the endings are all sad.

gregq said...

Have these idiots learned NOTHING from history? They're recreating the City Mobs of Rome and Byzantium. Sorry, David, but isolated villagers can be pushed around. People with nothing to do, no responsibilities? THEY can push back

Fr Martin Fox said...

Tom Friedman's dream country!

Skipper said...

Sounds like urban renewal in the
60's, with the building of public housing high-rises that quickly revealed themselves as urban hellholes.

Blue@9 said...

Have these idiots learned NOTHING from history? They're recreating the City Mobs of Rome and Byzantium. Sorry, David, but isolated villagers can be pushed around. People with nothing to do, no responsibilities? THEY can push back

I agree. Talk about a terrible idea--let's put a whole bunch of disaffected poor people together so they can plan a rebellion. Not to mention the fact that rural farmers actually have something to lose. Unemployed men between the ages of 16-25 with no prospect for marriage or social advancement? Powderkeg.

Michael K said...

I would be a bit suspicious if all those Chinese being moved into high rise are over 50. Buildings collapse and solve the aged problem.

Titus said...

Cities...where money is made!

Rural places...where are youth flee from in order to make money because there is no money to make in Dodge City.

Youth American meccas where money is to be made are extremely liberal.

Shit hole conservative rural areas they work at a store or restaurant or "tourist atrraction" for 9.00 an hour and live at home definitely, natch.

Take your pic youngins.

Where are your kids old and conservative and gross Althousians? Working at the local Burger King or venturing out to a large city with actual opportunity?


LarsPorsena said...

"Everybody's watching what's going on in Beijing right now with the Olympics. Think about the amount of money that China has spent on infrastructure. Their ports, their train systems, their airports are all vastly the superior to us now, which means if you are a corporation deciding where to do business … you're starting to think, "Beijing looks like a pretty good option." Why aren't we doing the same thing?"

Barack H. Obama 24 August 2008

Nonapod said...

Once again the complete idiocy of central planners will be on horrific display. You can almost see the gears turning in these moron aparacheks heads. They look at Hong Kong and think "What is it the makes the standard of living so much higher that other places? Of course, it's a city!". They believe they can improve the lot for all the poor rural dwellers by literally turning the country side into cities, as if Real Life is like a giant game of Sim City or something.

Biff said...

Whenever I want to feel really depressed, I spend a few minutes reading the comment threads on NYT or WaPo articles.

Almost every comment on the article at the NYT falls into one of these three categories:

1) China has to do this because otherwise, all that rural land will continue to be used "inefficiently." (Cue "If I ran the world..." fantasies.)

2) China needs to impose tough, centralized solutions to bring its population into modernity, but other methods would be better than these. (Cue "If I ran the world..." fantasies.)

3) How dare China to try to encourage growth and consumerism when the world is already overpopulated, and Gaia is crying!! (Cue "If I ran the world..." fantasies.)

Out of the few dozen comments I read, none of them suggested that rural residents should have control over their own destinies, and none of them suggest that property rights or market forces had any role to play.

Thomas Friedman must be very happy.

poppa india said...

Titus, I wonder how old you are? And what's your plan to avoid becoming old and gross?

ricpic said...

Here we just sit around and play mahjongg.

Does this mean China is on the verge of supplanting Del Ray Beach/Boca Raton as the world capitol of yentas?

Balfegor said...

Not terribly unusual in Chinese history. Mass resettlement might also be part of where the Hakka came from.

tim maguire said...

Tim said...Tim Maguire @ 2:47 pm.m beat me to the punch. My apologies.

Must be sonething in the name.

Douglas said...

Many of you are missing the point. The economic boom in China over the past 30 years has been fueled by the movement of people from low productivity jobs in the country (subsistence farming) to higher productivity urban jobs. This has resulted in huge increases in the standard of living for the hundreds of millions of Chinese who now live in urban areas. BTW, the same thing happened in the US, but over a longer time period.

There are still a few hundred million Chinese living in rural poverty. The game plan is to move them into higher productivity urban jobs, and at the same time improve agricultural productivity through automation. A couple of years ago, I met an old Japanese man on a plane in China -he said he came to China every spring to see them plant rice by hand, since you can't see that in Japan anymore. In another generation, you won't see that in China, either.

Nomennovum said...

Awful. Simply an awful story that won't end well. You know what the worst part of this is for me? When the 45 year old farmer says, "For old people like us ...."

"Old." "People like us." Fuck you, farmer. I'm not like you.

bagoh20 said...

"Shit hole conservative rural areas they work at a store or restaurant or "tourist atrraction" for 9.00 an hour and live at home definitely, natch."

If the payoff for living in the high rent district is that you develop an appreciation for the beauty of your own turds because that's what people do there, then you're really overpaying. I understand your need to lash out at people with better options, but have faith, lil' buddy; things will get better.

bagoh20 said...

You know where they have a lot of turds available for viewing in public? China. Titus, you just take a walk down most alleys there and it would be like visiting a museum of fine art for you. Then you could go back to fancy Boston and show your friends the photos. Man, the seething envy of all your friends when they realize what you saw in person right there with the artists would be a delicious piece superiority rubbed right in their faces. You gotta go. I mean to China.

Douglas said...

As for the problem of land seizures in China, well, it's a problem. The problem is that the Government owns all the land, every inch of it. All any private person can get is a lease. In urban areas, all those skyscrapers are built on 70-year leases. In rural areas, the farmer's rights are even less secure, they have a right to farm of indeterminate length. The Government comes and kicks the farmers off and pays "fair market value" - what the land is worth to farm it. The Government then sells a leasehold to a land developer (which is often owned by the local government), which builds an industrial park or factory or apartment complex. In other words, the process is very similar to the eminent domain process in the US under the Kelo case.

Dante said...

I was in China a few years ago, and being my curious self, learned a few things. China has illegal immigration.. It's a bit different than what you might think of it, because it is country folk relocating, illegally, to the cities.

The post seems kind of like the people who have lived someplace all their lives, and don't know how to adjust. It happens in the US too, but perhaps with not such a large river of water. It's merely scale, and the Chinese have a lot of people.

aberman said...

http://www.economist.com/news/china/21570750-first-two-articles-about-impact-chinas-one-child-policy-we-look-shrinking has more of the story-- urbanisation increases productivity, and China's in trouble because it's not producing enough children. Of course, studies have shown that one of the biggest factors in shrinking birth rates is-- urbanization. So China is eating it's seed corn by doing this as the transported workers will have even fewer children, accelerating China's demographic decline. But this move will only affect things dozens of years from now, well after the leadership retires.

Rusty said...


""China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years...""


This will not end well.

AprilApple said...

American democrats salivate over such power.

Lyle said...

Stupid one party political system.

AprilApple said...

Sweet sweet public housing.

China has a lot of toxic villages with high cancer rates. Perhaps after all the villagers are dead, the government can build 1960's style Americana public housing.

Bob R said...

@Titus, Douglas and other fools. The point isn't that urbanization is bad. The point is that centrally planned, forced urbanization has had a long history of failure - often degenerating into genocide. The centrally planned agrarian sentimentalism of the US farm bill and myriad EU programs is just as stupid, but since it props up an order that evolved more or less voluntarily it causes less harm and fails less quickly.

Cheryl said...

My husband and I traveled from Shanghai to Beijing by high-speed train last September. It was surreal. Out of nowhere, huge cities would spring up, only to disappear in the distance. Five or ten minutes later, we'd see another huge, obviously new city in the middle of the farmland. We wondered how in the world these new cities would be populated. Now I know.

But the answer is in this sentence: "Almost every province has large-scale programs to move farmers into housing towers, with the farmers’ plots then given to corporations or municipalities to manage." Everything in China is about the money. Every single thing. They are beyond doubt the most ruthless businessmen you will ever come across. (My husband has done business over there for 25 years. He has hilarious stories from the Wild West days, but it is different now.)

The local government officials are lining their pockets, big time, and passing along some money to their friends in these corporations. And by "some" I mean billions. In China they laugh when Americans call someone "rich." The question is, "American rich or China rich?" Because American rich means nothing to them. I wouldn't have believed it until I experienced it.

By the way, Shanghai is so Western I was disappointed when I got there. Beijing is a shithole (sorry for the language) unless you know where to go. Communism still sucks.

Carl said...

Despite the toy rage of urban microbloggers, I believe most serious resistance to the central government comes from the country out west, which anyway channels difference cultural and historical traditions.

So I think we are just looking at a 21st century echo of the Trail of Tears: an effort to push troublesome people out of their native grounds and onto a reservation where they will be dependent, and far less trouble.

I can see no obvious reason why it won't work. The part of this story that's nauseating is the way in which Western journalists are on their knees in front of the Chicom prong, mouths open, ready to service.

I can see why they do that for Team Obama: they need, after all, to keep access to the levers of power to have anything to sell (news of what the powerful are doing, of course). But what's the argument for the Party in China? Maybe it's no more than Duranty/Stalin redux, the girlish infatuation of writing majors since time immemorial for manly dictators.

Rusty said...

AprilApple said...
American democrats salivate over such power

What could possibly go wrong?

AllenS said...

Obama loves him some China.

Nathan Alexander said...

Douglas is entirely correct. Pay attention to what he said.

I'd add that this is China's version of fulfilling the pessimism of Reynold's Law:
"Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them."

Now, there are always variations, but in China, the dominant cultural view is that rural dwellers are looked down on, and only city dwellers have a good life. They value white skin because anyone with dark skin is still a despised redneck. Take New York's "flyover states" disdain and ratchet it up by a factor of 10k.

So, to sum up: it is actually a case of China's govt trying to do the right thing for most of the right reasons, but it still won't end well.

Tom said...

This is what happens when government is allowed to define success.

Rusty said...

Titus said...
Cities...where money is made!


Exactly!

Now ask yourself; Why are cities located where they are, physically?

Marie said...

Biff said:
Out of the few dozen comments I read, none of them suggested that rural residents should have control over their own destinies, and none of them suggest that property rights or market forces had any role to play.

Best comment, hands down. And if you notice, Biff, there weren't many comments here on Althouse making that point, either. Seems like people accept that Chinese people are different from us and somehow they deserve the government they have.

Joe Schmoe said...

an effort to push troublesome people out of their native grounds and onto a reservation where they will be dependent, and far less trouble.

My Chinese acquaintances tell me that people who live in rural areas are more likely to have multiple children. It's more difficult to enforce the one-child policy on a dispersed population across a large geographic area. And apparently Chinese people who subsist on agrarian practices are no different than any other agrarian-based society: they have more children that can perform farm labor.

And if China is using this forced relocation as a population-control techniques, then I'd have to say they are following the West's practices to a T. Turn your populace into neurotic urbanites and watch the birth rates plummet.

Joe Schmoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Methadras said...

China has zero shame in telling their populace how they own them lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.

Erich said...

Congrats to China! This seems like a Great Leap Forward!

er... um... oh... yeah, maybe not.

Erich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Schmoe said...

Somewhere Le Corbusier is wishing he was born about 50 years later. He would've loved designing a highly-centralized, government-controlled city. In fact he did.

kmg said...

How do you say Big Brother in Chinese?

You can't. Due to the one-child policy, no one has a brother.

Words like brother, sister, aunt, uncle, and cousin, are obsolete.

Methadras said...

Joe Schmoe said...

Somewhere Le Corbusier is wishing he was born about 50 years later. He would've loved designing a highly-centralized, government-controlled city. In fact he did.


That looks oddly DPRK'ish.

MPH said...

Turning farmers into beggars. When the China bubble bursts, it is going to be hell. Batten down the hatches.