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Why so few tickets, so many passengers?
( 2004-01-13 01:52) (China Daily)

Every year, millions of migrant workers and other passengers will start to travel in China around the Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival. This year, there are reportedly around 2 billion people/times ready to take their Spring Festival tours. They make a herculean workload for China's transport industry and its related services.

It can be seen in all mass transport hubs that swarms of young men and women are lining up in long queues in the cold winter waiting for their turns to get the home-bound tickets. Sometimes they can only find that the tickets are sold out.

Every day, there will be a quarter million of passengers to start their train journeys from Beijing. The railway stations, airports and long-distance bus terminals in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other main cities are now inundated by travelling crowds.

Tickets for the Spring Festival holiday journeys, as noted the Chinese press, is probably China's last piece of legacy of the shortages characteristic of the old planned economy.

But the problem is that, after all other shortages were overcome thanks to the market-oriented reform, the unsatisfactory supply of services -- transport tickets to begin with -- is unlikely to go away easily from China for the foreseeable future.

In fact, the difficulty facing the migrant workers now has less and less to do with the planned economy, but more and more to do with the sheer size of the population (and its labour) and the attraction of the modern industry to the young farmers who have no crops to attend in the distant rural communities.

The Spring Festival mass transport crisis can be brought under control only when China's manufacturing power and its cities grow large enough to offer to the now migrant workers not only temporary jobs and shelters but social security and services as well -- to help them establish their new homes -- that is permanent homes -- in the cities.

The foreign politicians who are accusing China of causing the worldwide deflation or robbing other nations' jobs should be invited to the Beijing Railway Station to take a look of the swelling tide of migrant workers.

They are the ones who are willing to offer themselves to whatever jobs in the cities simply to make slightly more cash than they could from traditional farming. They are the ones to push for China to produce more and export more to the global market. And they have perfect rights to do so.

And Chinese civil servants, those who are responsible for urban business growth in particular, should also be reminded of their task to liberalize the industrial job market and expand urban services. This is a much heavier task than simply moving so many people around safely.

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