Tuesday, August 30, 2011

China's cruel management of rural-to-urban migration

If you're looking for an example of the cruelty of fate as manifest in where one is born (even within a given country, never mind country-to-country variations), look no farther than contemporary China. This front-page story in today's New York Times explains the nation's latest efforts to manage rural-to-urban migration. The headline is an apt one: "China Takes Aim at Rural Influx." Journalist Andrew Jacobs reports that Chinese officials have demolished "30 technically illegal private schools" in Beijing this summer, displacing more than 30,000 students. The reasons the schools--often housed in warrens of ramshackle buildings--are being destroyed is contested, with officials claiming it is to protect safety and hygiene. Some believe it is because the schools are sometimes on valuable pieces of urban property.

But school administrators, parents and many Beijingers view the bulldozing as nothing more than a roughshod exercise in population control. According to the Beijing Bureau of Statistics, more than one-third of the capital’s 19.6 million residents are migrants from China’s rural hinterland, a figure that has grown by about 6 million just since 2000.

Numbers like these worry the governing Communist Party, which has a particular aversion to the specter of urban slums and their potential as cauldrons for social instability.

While the quality of the schools is questionable, they are the only education many migrant families can afford for their children.

See other posts about rural-to-urban migration and related themes in Asia here, here and here.

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