The BBC is taking a closer look at what urbanisation in China is doing to individuals in the country:

The country’s urbanisation is the biggest and fastest in history and it’s by no means over. By 2030, China’s cities will house close to a billion people, that’s 70% of the population.

The speed of this transition is also breathtaking. In just 30 years, China has gone from 20% urbanisation to 54%, a journey that took Britain 100 years and the US 60 years. Already there are more than 100 cities in China with a population of more than one million people, compared with only nine in America.

Some may call it a success…

“In the past 30 years we turned farmers into factory workers, triggering massive gains in productivity and hence growth.”

So says Premier Li Keqiang, insisting that urbanisation remains a gigantic engine for growth, “The greatest potential for expanding domestic demand lies in urbanisation.”

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But the successes of China’s urban adventure have been matched by equally great failures. The test now is to avoid repeating the mistakes and to make the next chapter for China’s cities better in the interests of the one billion people who have to live in them. 

The government acknowledges as much. In 2014 it published a plan for China’s urban future which admitted to the problems of pollution, urban sprawl, congestion and social tension.

On top of questions of environmental safety, food safety and quality of urban services, those who now own property are as obsessed by the value of that asset as the middle classes anywhere. They worry about what is happening to prices, and any sudden fall in prices might trigger not just a financial crisis in China but serious protest. 

Just such a political shock is the threat that keeps China’s leaders awake at night. But a more fundamental problem for the future of China’s cities is migrants.

The rapid urbanisation of cities is putting strain on natural resources but also on cultural identities, occupations, living habits and emotions.

See the BBC’s full story here.  Also, see their eye-opening portrait of how this change effects the individual here.

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