Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Promises, promises

Analysts have long argued that China's household registration system needed reform to facilitate economic growth. Changes might finally be coming.

Lu Yilong, a professor at Renmin University is quoted in the article as saying, “I think there’s more hope of substantive change this time… This is more a coordinated, top-down reform… " (Are you remembering democratic centralism?)

China Moves to Ease Home-Registration Rules in Urbanization Push
The Chinese government issued proposals on Wednesday to break down barriers that a nationwide household registration system has long imposed between rural and urban residents and among regions, reinforcing inequality, breeding discontent and hampering economic growth.

Yet even as officials promoted easier urbanization and the goal of permanently settling an additional 100 million rural people in towns and cities by 2020, they said changes to the system — which links many government entitlements to a person’s official residence, even if that person has long since moved away — must be gradual and must protect big cities like Beijing.

“This reform of the household registration system will be more decisive, vigorous, broad-ranging and substantive than it’s ever been,” Huang Ming, a vice minister of public security…

The barriers in China’s system of household registration, or hukou, date to Mao’s era. In the late 1950s, the system was instituted to keep famished peasants from pouring into cities. The policies later calcified into caste-like barriers that still often tie citizens’ education, welfare and housing opportunities to their official residence, even if they have moved far away from that place to find a livelihood. The restrictions hinder permanent migration among many urban and rural areas and among regions and cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing…

Despite market forces that have transformed China’s economy, many of those barriers persist. Nowadays, about 54 percent of the population lives long term in towns and cities. But only 36 percent of the Chinese people are counted as urban residents under the registration rules…

The divisions have become a source of discontent, and sometimes protests — when, for example, children from the countryside or from another city cannot enroll in a local school or take the university entrance exam where they live…

At a meeting on Wednesday of the State Council Standing Committee — China’s equivalent of a government cabinet — Prime Minister Li Keqiang said rural migrants with steady jobs in cities “must steadily become absorbed into cities as new urbanites, enjoying the same basic public services and equal rights,” Xinhua, the state news agency, reported…

The government also said, as it had before, that it would try to ease barriers that deny places in schools, health care, and family-planning and other public services to residents who do not have local household registration papers. Many city governments have resisted such changes, and urban residents fear the erosion of their privileges…

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