Mainland China

Urbanisation

In the final part of this chapter, we provide a concise and selective reflection on recent housing development and markets in mainland Chinese cities, in the light of the Hong Kong experience. The dominant story of recent years has of course been one of very rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, with initially a pathfinding role being played by major coastal cities and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) (like Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong) but later with growth spread?ing to dozens of smaller and inland cities. This urbanisation has been accompanied by large-scale migration from rural to urban living and working—however, a distinct feature of mainland China has been the maintenance of the ‘Hukou’ registration system, under which rural residents do not necessarily gain urban citizenship status, including access to services and welfare benefits, when they move to work in an urban area, and are effectively treated as temporary migrants for indefinite periods. Whilst this system has made for a flexible labour market which can absorb fluctuations in demand, it has also created a stratified, unequal urban society with much poverty and inadequate housing conditions (there were an estimated 200 million rural migrants without urban hukou, according to Wang et al. 2012). The system has its curious, perhaps unique parallel, on the supply side, in the form of ‘urban villages’, enclaves of housing and people operating under the former rural system but surrounded by modern urban development. These often intensify in an informal, unregulated fashion and house large numbers of migrant workers (as sub-tenants) in poor housing conditions (Wang 2012; Wang and Shao 2014).

 
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