Skip to main content

8cdd470446f86f380e803727_ve285.jpg

China’s Great Migration

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of regional issues – particularly inter-regional disparities – for China’s politics. That is why ensuring continued migration from the country's vast interior to the coastal regions is as important as maintaining large investment flows in the opposite direction.

BEIJING – China’s Henan province has a population of about 100 million – larger than that of most countries. In China’s administrative system, a province is at the highest level of sub-national government, followed by counties, cities, and townships. But a township in Guangdong province can easily serve a population of 500,000 to one million – larger than that of many cities outside of China. Thus, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of regional issues – particularly inter-regional disparities – for China’s politics.

China is divided by nature. Among the large continental countries, including India and Brazil, only China has a small segment of coastline but vast interior regions. When the main object of human consumption was food, this was not a problem, because what mattered was land and water. But in modern industrial, urban, and market-based societies, what may matter increasingly are transport costs, which means that geography can cause deep regional inequalities.

Though such disparities can, of course, have other causes as well, geography does seem to explain a lot. First of all, it explains why China’s coastal regions developed earlier and faster after the country launched its market reforms and opened to the world. It was not “preferential” policies or skewed resource allocation by the government that caused China’s coastal cities to boom, but rather their proximity to the ocean, which was and remains the cheapest way to move resources and products.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/3mxglXy;
  1. bildt69_DELIL SOULEIMANAFP via Getty Images_syriansoldiermissilegun Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

    Time to Bite the Bullet in Syria

    Carl Bildt

    US President Donald Trump's impulsive decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria and allow Turkey to launch a military campaign against the Kurds there has proved utterly disastrous. But a crisis was already inevitable, given the realities on the ground and the absence of a coherent US or Western policy in Syria.

    8

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions