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China transitions from rural-life to city-life

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

07-20-2018 16:46 BJT

Full coverage: China's reform and opening-up, 40 years on

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

Editor's note: 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China's 'reform and opening up' that opened the doors for a more prosperous China that helped hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens escape poverty as the nation had enjoyed rapid economic growth and development. CCTV.com takes a closer look at Beijing's comprehensive reforms with a series of special reports focusing on various fields where tremendous changes have taken place ever since the introduction of the policy.

When the late Chinese leader announced a sweeping initiative for the country to embark on reform and opening up with the Open Door Policy announced at the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in December 1978, China was struggling with dire poverty and under-development nationwide.

The Chinese government had the foresight to usher in more free market-oriented measures to attract a huge inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI). The implementation led the nation to emerge as the world’s largest exporter, starting in 2009 and rising in status as the second-largest economy.

Yet in 1978, Deng's bold plan seemed more like fantasy than reality. Many Chinese were poor and it was a largely agrarian society, with more than 82 percent of its citizens living in rural regions. For China’s economy to overcome its impoverished circumstances, a new era of reform and opening up had to shift people’s attitudes and provide them with hope.

To make China strong, it was necessary to change so much and still maintain social stability. Accordingly, the reform and opening up process is occurring in a staged and steady process with experimentation, via pilot projects, to determine if certain projects would succeed nationwide.

Even 40 years later, the reform and opening up policy continues to march ahead as government officials make frequent adjustments to ensure a sustainable mode of development for the country.

The policy of rural reforms had boosted the nation's agricultural production with the results beginning to show in the early 1980s. Farmers had access to new equipment and materials for growing crops and raising livestock that had raised their income levels.

And when China's agriculture sector was booming, there had become a surplus of labor in rural regions, since tractors replaced the need for hiring seasonal workers. Beijing recognized that surplus labor in rural areas could stall economic growth and in the 1980s Deng had called for further progress on China's modernization.

The long-term strategy was to open up five major Special Economic Zones (SEZs) on the coastal regions. In 1978, Shenzhen was just a small fishing village with a population of 20,000. But now over 10 million people live there.

Shanghai was a larger city, but in the 1980s when the city district - Pudong - was granted special status as an SEZ, developers saw only swamps back then. The swamps were cleared out and the amazing and famous skyline of Shanghai is now standing as its replacement.

To witness the transformation of Shenzhen as a global center for hi-tech innovations and Shanghai as one of the leading financial capital cities, the world is witnessing the awe-inspiring urbanization of China.

In 1978, only 17.9% of Chinese (170 million) lived in cities, but as of 2018 - around 58.5% (810 million) of them reside in urban areas. A majority of city residents are either migrants from rural areas or they are direct descendants (have parents or grandparents) of farmers who moved to the big cities.

Since the beginning of reform and opening up four decades ago, demographics experts estimate that over 640 million farmers had departed from their hometowns and moved to a Chinese city, a large percentage of them arriving at coastal cities in order to find better jobs and to improve their living standards.

Hence, the rise of China came into fruition because there has been a shift towards urbanization. Many Chinese families had walked away from their hometown villages to set up new lives in the city.

The transition was not easy, but the nation has indeed transformed and boomed in its development, partly due to the hard working mindset of rural migrants who have moved to urban areas, such as Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta regions.

Therefore, the Chinese government will continue to move forward on urbanization plans as the right approach for continued success of the nation in the years ahead.

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "panview@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration

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