Massive west-to-east migration proposed
( 2003-12-08 08:28) (China Daily)
Senior government consultant suggested a massive "west-to-east'' migration campaign to speed up China's urbanization process.
Zhou Ganzhi, a leading adviser with the Ministry of Construction, told China Daily that the migration of up to 100 million western farmers from western regions to economically developed eastern urban areas is feasible.
"It is a strategy which make things easier for both sides,'' said Zhou.
Firstly, the migration can guarantee an ample labuor supply for the further economic development of eastern regions. Meanwhile, the development pressure can be reduced in economically and ecologically fragile western areas because of the fall in the population.
The migrants are expected to mainly settle in the three city belts in the Pearl River and Yangtze River delta and the Beijing-Tianjin area, Zhou said when attending the China city and town development forum over the weekend.
China, with population of about 1.3 billion, has about 220 million surplus labourers in rural areas and most of them live in the central and western regions.
Zhou, also a former vice-minister of construction, said he will lead a team to conduct more detailed research work on the strategy, which will help people in the nation's western and eastern regions enjoy a more balanced development.
Peng Zhenwei, a professor at Shanghai's Tongji University agreed on the feasibility of Zhou's suggestion.
"But we need more work,'' said Peng. "We should first conduct research on the maximum number of people who should be allowed to settle in those cities.''
He said this is a tough job as, so far, no specialists in China are working on population research in the city belts.
About 40 million, 70 million and 45 million residents respectively live in China's three urban belts, in the Pearl River and Yangtze River delta and the Beijing-Tianjin area.
"But in reality, such migration has already begun,'' said Peng.
First, thousands of college graduates from western regions are working in eastern cities, despite some of them having no household registration there.
Meanwhile, up to 50 million rural surplus labourers are earning money outside their own provinces and most of them are working in eastern regions.
Experts said household registration in eastern regions should cover graduates and farmers-turned-workers as soon as possible.
"In addition, our suggesting of migration does not mean ignoring western development,'' said Peng.
He said big cities, such as provincial capitals of Xi'an and Kunming, and urban belts such as Chengdu-Chongqing, should play a bigger role as regional centres and attract more farmers.
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