The simultaneous, rapid urbanization of China and India is unprecedented–-in both the scale of the urbanization and the speed at which it is occurring. The sudden shifts of these enormous populations from rural to urban is causing tectonic shifts in demographics, economics, and social justice in these two countries and the rest of the world.
In 1950, both countries were predominately rural nations, with only 17 percent of the Indian population and 13 percent of China’s living in cities. Sixty years later, China’s urbanization rate had more than tripled, reaching 48 percent. At expected growth rates, India and China alone will account for more than 40 percent of global urban population growth from 2005 to 2025, with China expected to add 400 million people to its urban population–more than the total population of the United States today. China, a nation which was predominantly rural until 2011, is expected to be 64 percent urban by 2025.
Urbanization is expensive. It is an investment that will require enormous amounts of natural and capital resources. Seventy years ago, Mahatma Gandhi lamented, “It took Britain half of the resources of this planet to achieve its prosperity. How many planets will India require for development?” Seventy years later, the question we have to answer is: How many more planets will China and India together require for their urbanization?