Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, March 27, 2014

And the latest word on residential permit reform from Beijing…

Urbanization has been going on at a dramatic pace in China for the last three decades. But public policy is still mired in the 1980s. The topic sort of arose during the recent NPC meeting, but not soon enough for any public notice. Plans are underway. Whose plans? Whose goals? Whose process? (Never mind. Just follow directions.)

If you check out the "See also" notes at the bottom, the process of policy making seems to be the same as it was in the past: slow.

Moving on up
AFTER months of bickering among officials, on March 16th the government revealed a long-awaited plan for managing what has been the world’s largest migration of rural residents into cities… It called for a “new style” of urbanisation, focused on making cities fairer for migrants. This will require considerable government spending, and will meet tough resistance.

It is remarkable that a government so fond of planning has taken this long to produce a plan for urbanisation; in the past 35 years the population of urban China has grown by more than 500m people…

The new document reflects a shift in city-building strategy that has become evident since new leaders took over in China in 2012; it recognises that urban China risks being destabilised by the creation of a huge mass of what the Chinese media sometimes admit are “second-class citizens”. The plan calls for the “gradual elimination” of the chief cause of this: the hukou system of household registration that was introduced in the 1950s to prevent internal immigration…

By 2020, according to the plan, 100m migrants are to obtain urban hukou. This is a cautious target. The government admits it would still leave 200m people—by then roughly two-thirds of migrants—without city-resident status…

Crucially, the plan does not suggest when the hukou system might be scrapped altogether. And it still allows bigger cities, which migrants prefer, to continue using hukou barriers as a way of trying to limit population growth…

Local governments are likely to interpret this as strictly as they can. They are fearful of having to spend a lot more on public services such as health care, education and subsidised housing, which barely reach most non-urban hukou holders. The new plan gives few details of how beefing up these services will be paid for, an omission that suggests much bickering remains to be done…

The plan also gives a nod to the aspirations of China’s new middle-class, some of whom are pressing for a greater say in how their cities are run. The “level of democratisation”, it says, should be increased in the drawing up of city plans. Officials, however, chose to keep the plan secret until after the closing of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature. It would have been a pity to spoil it with debate, even by a rubber-stamp parliament from which migrants are all but excluded.
See also:

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original and v2.0 are now available to help prepare review sessions


What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.


Just The Facts! is a catalog of concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for May's exam.


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