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China to create hundreds of ‘new’ cities

(ATF) China is planning to rezone hundreds of areas currently classed as ‘rural’ or ‘county’ as cities. The move is likely to transform life for hundreds of millions of citizens because ‘urban residents’ receive far more benefits than those in rural areas, such as healthcare, education and social security, plus more freedom of movement and other benefits.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), arguably the most powerful of China’s many state departments, announced on its official website on Monday April 12 the “Key Tasks for New Urbanisation and Urban-Rural Integration Development in 2021”. The full text has eight major points, but the upshot is that senior officials plan to rezone hundreds of areas as cities, rather than rural or county, and encourage new settlement.

Known as ‘Development and Reform Planning (2021) document No. 493’, these historic changes will affect a vast number of people as they are transformed from ‘rural’ to ‘city’ dwellers.

The all-powerful NDRC has ordered all relevant departments and agencies directly under central and state agencies, all provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and cities under separate state planning, including the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Development and Reform Commission, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, China National Railway Group, the China Development Bank and China Agricultural Development Bank to comply.

After review and approval at a second meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Joint Conference on Urbanisation Work and Urban-Rural Integration Development Work, the “Key Tasks for New Urbanization and Urban-Rural Integration Development in 2021” is now set for implementation.

2021 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the first year of the 14th Five-Year Plan, and a year of special importance in China’s modernisation drive. 

The document says the new urbanization strategy has been “guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. It will integrate the transfer of agricultural populations into cities, to enhance the carrying capacity of urban agglomerations and metropolitan areas, and transform the development of mega-cities.

It wants to improve the modernisation of urban construction and governance, promote urbanisation with county towns as an important way to accelerate integrated urban and rural development, and make a strong start for the 14th Five-Year Plan.

Orderly and effective integration

As part of the move, the NDRC will reform China’s household registration system, known as the ‘Hukou’, by liberalising the restrictions on urban settlement. City officials should determine the conditions for settlement, according to the carrying capacity of resources and the environment, plus the needs of economic and social development.

Cities with a permanent population of less than 3 million in urban areas have competely cancelled settlement restrictions. There are currently 687 cities in China, but this provision could easily double, triple or quadruple that number. County level towns will upgrade to cities, there are 1,355 county capitals, most of which will upgrade.

There are many more provisions in the order to expand public services into the new urban areas, such as transport, medical and educational facilities. These new city dwellers will serve growing industrial and manufacturing needs.

It is likely that no corner of the Communist superstate will be left untouched by this massive campaign.

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Chris Gill

With over 30 years reporting on China, Gill offers a daily digest of what is happening in the PRC.

AF China Bond