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Urbanization to focus on smaller cities

2013-12-17 10:52 Global Times Web Editor: qindexing

China is to inject more resources into the development of small and mid-level cities, while at the same time, seeking to control the population of the nation's megacities.

According to a statement released Saturday following an urbanization work conference hosted by the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, which included Party leader Xi Jinping, residents in some urban areas could expect to see an easing of hukou (household registration) restrictions.

These restrictions will be removed for towns and smaller cities, and eased in gradually for mid-sized cities. There will be reasonable conditions set for settling in big cities, however, the population will still be strictly controlled in megacities.

This differs from a report released by the State Council in June, which stated there would be a gradual loosening of conditions for settling in big cities, and these conditions would be reasonable.

"This means small and mid-sized cities have become the main focus of the country's new urbanization drive," Zhang Zhanbin, director of the Economics Department at China's National School of Administration told the Global Times on Sunday.

These cities will perform a more significant role in the country's urban development, as more quality resources will be injected by the government in the future, he said.

There is an army of 260 million migrant workers who live in cities but who do not have access to the same public services like pensions, healthcare and schooling as residents who possess an urban hukou. Experts believe that this poses a major barrier holding back the country's urbanization process.

Residents still registered under a rural hukou who currently work in cities will be given priority to become urban residents, the statement said, adding that measures and policies to enable migrant workers to win urban status should be carried out in line with farmers' willingness.

"By easing the restrictions, migrant workers will have more opportunities to integrate in the cities where they live," said Zhang.

By the end of 2011, China had 690 million urban residents. For the first time in history, the urban population was greater than the rural, with city-dwellers accounting for 51.27 percent of the total population, official statistics show.

Meanwhile, the new generation of migrant workers, who had an average age of 28 in 2012, leaves home at a younger age and shows more preference for living in big cities.

"Small and mid-sized cities will provide a hukou and will offer more to migrants, so this will help disperse migrant flows from rural areas, especially as it will be harder to live in megacities," Ma Xiaohe, deputy chief of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research under the National Development and Reform Commission, told the Global Times.

Compared to megacities, small cities are less developed in terms of public services and urban construction, however, as the country is calling for better construction and governance in the cities, the situation can be improved, said Ma.

The new urbanization drive urges cities to develop industries based on their unique resource advantages and enhance cooperation in professional services, especially the service sector, to consolidate industrial development foundation and encourage innovation.

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