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Cities' allure reassessed as rural-urban gap narrows

2015-02-04 16:26 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

Many Chinese migrant laborers who left home to pursue their dreams in cities are anticipating that the rural-urban development gap is narrowing and returning to their hometowns in the countryside.

Official data has showed growth in the number of migrant workers slowed to 1.3 percent in 2014 from a 1.7-percent increase the previous year, indicating less eagerness to move to big cities.

After over a decade of rapid urbanization, 54.8 percent of Chinese people now live in cities. A great number of would-be farmers have flooded to the bright lights for higher income, better education and medical services.

However, for most of them, life in metropolises is never easy -- suffocating traffic, soaring home prices and choking air pollution.

It is hard to feel a sense of home and success is not attained as easily as they thought due to fierce competition and the sluggish economy.

With most of the new city dwellers striving for success in "cement forests", many begin to miss the real woods back in the countryside. To stay or not to stay, that is the question.

Many farmers left their land as returns from agriculture are typically far less than from working in cities. Pulling strings is a must in some remote areas and some fall victim to village bullies.

The situation is expected to change as China is working to build its vast countryside into a breadbasket and a new economic powerhouse.

In its first policy document of 2015, China's Communist Party leadership pledged more effort to integrate rural-urban development by upgrading infrastructure in the countryside, improving living conditions there and enhancing public services, including education and medical care.

The party's leadership also promised to further subsidize grain production and facilitate the transfer of land use rights to boost economies of scale.

Many farmers have begun to prize their plots of land once again. Thanks to the narrowing rural-urban gap and emerging business opportunities, abandoning urban life often means reaping what cities can't offer.

In addition, it may be easier to be hired or start a business in rural markets far from saturation by migrant workers. This is especially the case for the young, who have saved money and learned managerial skills in cities.

In a well-connected world, living rurally does not necessarily mean toiling in the soil or being cut off from the modern world.

The spread of the Internet and smartphones keeps farmers well-informed and makes business as easy as touching a screen or clicking a mouse.

The fruit of policies to develop rural China is already being reaped. Growth in disposable income per capita in rural areas outpaced that in cities for the 11th consecutive year in 2014.

If the momentum is maintained, the income gap between rural and urban dwellers will finally taper off in the future.

Amid China's ambitious urbanization drive, the cities will undoubtedly remain a magnet for rural folk and a major dream incubator for many years to come. But more and more people will hear the call of the countryside and be able to lead an equally successful life back in their hometown.

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