Urbanization in China: what matters in the end?

Monday, October 10th, 2011
China rural migrant flow

“Those who live in the city want to bail out, while those who live outside of the city want to rush in (“城里的人想逃出去,城外的人想冲进来”)”. The famous motto in Qian Zhongshu’s "Fortress Besieged" (1947) is – more than marriage – a portrayal of urbanization in China today.

Why do people in cities want to bail out and why do those outside want to rush in? Where are they going? Where do they want to go?

Nowadays, whenever there is a holiday, large crowds of city dwellers flee to the rural and mountainous wilderness. The more wild the areas the more “cool” and “in” they appear to be.

To city dwellers, rural areas represent fresh air, fresh food and splendid scenery – rare qualities in the city but taken for granted by the rural population. In escaping to the country, they are searching for a connection to the wilderness and to enjoy a lifestyle that goes with the flow of nature nature, even if only for a short time.

To those who are naturally connected and have been living on the land for generations, cities are the wonderland of their dreams. Even though they have to crowd into the slums, eat contaminated food and breathe polluted air, they still force their way into the city and struggle to make a living.

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