China's Pre-Olympic Clean-Up Creates Slums

<p>In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing and other Chinese cities have taken measures to clean up their "urban villages", demolishing homes and displacing thousands of poor migrants, which has resulted in the creation of many slums.</p>
June 11, 2007, 10am PDT | Nate Berg
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"In the past two years or so, cities across China have announced plans to 'transform' these 'villages within cities'. Because of the Olympics in August 2008, Beijing faces a particularly tight deadline. The aim is to 'renovate' (ie, usually, flatten) 171 urban villages by the end of this year. Between 2005, when the campaign was launched, and the end of last year, 114 of them were thus transformed."

"Officials have given few details of the number of people affected. A state-controlled newspaper in 2005 said 33,935 households in 231 villages would be moved out. But these are only the 'permanent residents', ie, the villages' original inhabitants. They are heavily outnumbered by rural migrants, most of whom work as traders or in the city's service and construction industries. Their numbers have soared as Beijing has boomed."

"The villages have survived thanks to the haphazard expansion of Chinese cities, driven more by the whims of developers and local governments than by grand municipal plans."

"Some governments are now regretting their hands-off approach. Many of the villages have turned into not just slums but also criminal enclaves."

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Published on Thursday, June 7, 2007 in The Economist
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