China is no longer a rural population.
For the first time, more Chinese citizens are living in cities rather than in rural areas, according to numbers released on Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics.
This is no surprise to anyone who's traveled through China and witnessed the rise of mega-city after mega-city, skyscrapers springing up out of farmland and high-rises taking the place of pastoral scenes.
This new movement brings a host of new challenges for China, which has long planned and even encouraged its transformation to an urbanized nation.
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Though the statistics bureau's numbers are somewhat different because they count the populations of Hong Kong and Taiwan (not practically or always politically under the umbrella of China), they do show that in 2001, 51.3 percent of the country's estimated 1.4 billion people lived in urban rather than rural areas.
The shift has not been unexpected or unnoticed, particularly as millions of farmers and their children have moved to cities to make a living. New challenges emerge daily, however, as China struggled to cope with new population problems and basic issues associated with being a nation of city-dwellers.
The statistics bureau pointed out the challenges, in somewhat bureaucratic language:
The external environment for China’s economic development is rather complicated, while the contradictions and problems of uncertainty, incoordination and unsustainability (sic) in domestic economic development are still prominent.
The government's solution? More and better economic growth, of course. That being said, the bureau also noted that China's economic growth rate slowed to 8.9 percent last year, the lowest increase in two years.