Spatial structure: continuous adjustment of the allocation of resources and opportunities between urban and rural areas, and among regions

Urban and rural, as well as regional, structures are formed through the spatial allocation of social resources and opportunities.

Changes in China’s urban-rural structure are manifested, first of all, in urbanization, namely with the progress of industrialization, a large share of the rural population has been transformed into urban population and the traditional rural society has gradttally been changed into an urban society. In 1952, China’s urbanization rate was only 12.8%. In 1978, it was 17.9%. In 26 years, the urbanization rate increased only 5.1 percentage points. After 1978, the process of urbanization began to accelerate. Calculated on the basis of the resident population in cities and towns, the urbanization rate reached 45.7% in 2008, approaching the generally recognized urbanization level whereby urban population accounts for 50% of the total population. Second, changes in the urban-rural structure are also manifested in the transformation of the bifurcated urban-rural system - namely, the development of the market economy breaking the administrative monopoly over the allocation of resources and opportunities in urban and rural areas - and loosened the bifurcated urban-rural social structure formed in the planned economy period. Rural reform, which began in 1978, broke the constraints of the system of bifurcated urban-rural property rights. Rural areas obtained relative autonomy in the allocation of resources, which led to a series of changes in the urban-rural system. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the state has put forward the strategy of

Social construction at the new stage 95 balancing urban-rural development and successively introduced a series of measures to support and benefit farmers. Rural areas and fanners have reaped tangible benefits. However, the gap between urban and rural areas is still very large.

Since the reform and opening up, disparities in regional development are increasingly evident. The regional interaction mechanism has changed from single to pluralistic. The pattern of economic and social development in western, central, and eastern regions has gradually taken shape. The patterns and speed of economic and social development in different regions have become more distinct. The gap in living standards and development oppoxtimities between members of society are gradually widening. Generally speaking, the level of development is the highest in the eastern region; next comes the central region, and the lowest level of development is found in the western region. The gap between the three major regions is evident. In 2008, the 11 provinces and municipalities in the eastern region - Beijing, Tianjin, Liaoning, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong, Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan, and Hebei - accounted for 9.5% of the land area and 40% of the population in the country, but created 58.4% of the country’s GDP, whereas the inland areas of the central and western regions, which accounted for 90.5% of the land area and 60% of the population, created only 41.6% of the GDP. The imbalance of regional structure is the basic national condition in China at present, and coordinating regional development is an important aspect of the cunent social structure adjustment.

Status structure: a modern structure of social strata has been initially formed

With the evolution of historical processes, changes in social factors such as systems and structures, and in the ways of resource allocation and opportunity acquisition, the structure of social strata in China has undergone profound changes, which have become symbolic of the core changes in the social structure of contemporary China.

From 1949-1978, the change in the structure of social strata was a process of simplification. With the establishment of socialist public ownership and the plaimed economic system, the structure of social strata of two classes and one stratum consisting of workers, peasants, and intellectuals was finally formed. Since 1978, with profound changes in the economic system, important changes have taken place in the ways in which resources and oppoitunities are allocated. The original single mode of centralized allocation has been transformed into joint allocation by the state, the market, and society. This promoted the changes in the social structure and served as a catalyst for the formation of new social strata and groups, such as private enterprise owners and migrant workers. As a result, the society has been differentiated into a stratified structure of “10 major strata.”12 In terms of access to opportunities, since 1978, especially at the initial stage of the refonn and opening up, policies and institutions of the state on the whole played an important even a decisive role in the acquisition and ups and downs of people’s social status. The role of ascribed factors (itKSM) was evident.

However, with the lapse of time, the whole society becomes more open, and later efforts tl) gradually become the main principle for obtaining opportunities of upward mobility.

In the past 60 years since the founding of New China, especially in the past 30 years of reform and opening up, the profound changes in China’s social structure have promoted the formation of an embryonic modem structure of social str ata. The distribution of resources and opportunities among social strata constitutes the objective basis for positions in the social hierar chy. The ability of members of different social strata to obtain resources and opportunities has become an important factor in changing their status in the social hierarchy. With the disintegration of the prereform structure of two classes and one stratum and the gradual formation of new social strata, the structure of social strata has changed from simplification to diversification and from being closed to open. A modem structure of social strata has basically taken shape. Moreover, the proportion of the middle class continues to expand, which is a clear manifestation of the new structure of social strata in contemporary China. According to our calculation, China’s middle class accounted for 22% of the total employed population in 2007, an increase of 7 percentage points over the 15% in 1999. Currently, the proportion of the middle class increases about one percentage point annually. About 8 million people have entered the middle class. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that the modem transformation of the structure of social strata in China is far from complete. The proportion of middle and lower strata is still very large and that of the middle stratum JU) is relatively small. The overall structure shows the shape of an onion.

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