China’s new leaders seem to be placing their hopes for economic growth on urbanization, but high urbanization has its costs, argues a new report from a Chinese think tank.
hina’s new leaders seem to be placing their hopes for economic growth on urbanization. They see an upsurge in demand for a whole range of services – from housing to schooling and health care as the rural population is increasingly pulled into the urban economy.
But high urbanization has its costs, argues a new report from Beijing Anbound Information, a private think tank that advises a number of local governments around China. Chief among those costs, the report says, is the magnification of social problems – and in a country with a considerable amount of social friction, that certainly is something to consider.
Anbound contends that once urbanization reaches 50%, the potential for social unrest rises considerably. China has already crossed that line, having reached 51.27% at the end of 2011, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
“An urbanization rate of 50% is correlated with rising social risks in urban areas,” Anbound said. “It is a significant level.”
The study points to some interesting cases in other countries that illustrate how urbanization – along with a wide range of other social and political issues – led to more serious social unrest and, in some cases, much deeper instability.