'Handshake Buildings' Demonstrate Successes and Failures of China's Urbanization

The migrants that have swelled China's cities in recent decades still remain 'second-class citizens', unable to sell their rural land or have access to public services like schools or medical care. Will the country's new leaders change this?
June 2, 2013, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"An unusually public debate has unfolded in think-tanks, on microblogs and in state media about how China should improve the way it handles urbanisation," reports The Economist. "Some propose that migrants in cities should, as quickly as possible, be given the same rights to services as urban dwellers. Others insist that would-be migrants should first be given the right to sell their rural plot of land to give them a deposit for their new urban life. Still others say the government must allow more private and foreign competition in state-controlled sectors of the economy such as health care, which would expand urban services for all, including migrants. Most agree the central government must bear much more of the cost of public services and give more power to local governments to levy taxes."

"Any combination of these options would be likely to raise the income of migrants, help them to integrate into city life and narrow the gap between the wealthy and the poor, which in China is among the widest in the world. Such reforms would also spur on a slowing economy by boosting domestic consumption."

As the authors explain, the “handshake buildings” (so named because they are separated from each other by only a few feet) that comprise "China’s favelas" and house the many migrants not living in factory dormitories, could become a solution for the country's urbanization ills by "[increasing] the supply of affordable housing and [helping] more migrants become proper urban residents."

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Published on Saturday, June 1, 2013 in The Economist
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