Posted 21 May 2007 - 07:38 PM
I read Kyung-Sup Chang's paper "Chinese Urbanization and Development Before and After Economic Reform: A Comparative Reappraisal". This is adapted from it:
During the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, the massive mobilisation of the peasant population for labour-intensive local industrialisation resulted in an overnight creation of thousands of commune centers each accomodating tens of thousands of people. During the two-decade period following the ending of the Great Leap Forwardm the strict control of population movement, particularly from rural to urban places, denied the rural population any meaningful choices in responding to the worsening man-land ration - for instance, leaving the village for urban industrial sector jobs and thereby becoming urban residents.
The growth of noncoastal metropolises produced two contrasting trends in the urban-industrial system in China: decentralisation at the national level and centralisation at the regional level.
Following the introduction of household responsibility systems in agricultural production, a cautious measure of allowing short-range migration of peasants to nearby towns and small cities was implemented. The orderly atmosphere of the Mao-era Chinese cities becomes less and less evident in contemporary Chinese cities, whose physical congestion, pollution, crime, prostitution, and even political unrest are increasingly publicised by domestic and foreign media. Nevertheless, new urban economic activities are very rapidly expanding.
It is not neglibile that Chinese industries had made available for farmers various new agricultural inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and tractors. Such impacts, however, seem to have been far overshadowed by the structural constraints imposed on the rural economy under peasants' coerced attachment to grain production. To this must be added those state policies which appear to constitute what Lipton (1977) dubs "urban bias." Such policies included unequal exchange of agricultural and industrial products at state-imposed prices, minimal state investment in agriculture, and discrimination against rural resident in pensions, food subsidies, housing and health benefits. Despite the Maoist rhetoric of "cities serve villages", the Chinese countryside had suffered from a sort of state-imposed urban parasitism.
It is argued by the functionalist that the division and specialisation of labour assures that the entire population will ultimately benefit from interregional inequalities which, in turn, are unavoidable to increase the national wealth. The structuralist argues, however, that interregional inequalities are necessary not for nationally integrated development but for development (of some regions) based upon underdevelopment (of other regions). That is, unless decisive local actions are taken, interregional disparities will continue to grow as the national economy grows.
The symptoms of overurbanisation can emerge even under rapid industrialisation and urban infrastructure development if leading industrial sectors actually have a very limited capacity for labour absorption and thus fail to integrate economically the majority of the urban population. The pressure for rural-to-urban migration can sometimes continue to build even after the exhaustion of productive urban employment and allviation of rural labour surplus. Labour movement from overstaffed farms to newly built urban industries is thought to produce desirable consequences for both rural and urban economies. Cities cannot be externally (i.e. in relation to rural development) generative only by providing low-wage jobs for peasant migrants who otherwise would be redundantly engaged in subsistence farming.
As in other countries, household-level agricultural production does not appear to be a permanent option for rural development no matter how much the land-labour ratios improve as a result of sustained rural outmigration.
Most (capitalist) Asian economies have failed to avoid to overcome the problems of urban primacy and regional imbalance in national development. Many reformist leaders openly point out that coastal metropolises and their vicinities should inevitably take advantage of their superior social, economic, and geographic conditions, especially at the early stages of socialist economic development.
Comparative advantage can be newly created under planned and concentrated investment in certain sectors. The central government should also monitor what portions of interregional disparity are based upon the market-based interregional division of labour and the market-distorting behaviour of regional economic actors.