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Characteristics


Chinese picture
Chinese picture

China has a population of 1,386,044,600 (2018 estimate). The population density is about 143 people per sq km (369 per sq mi); this figure represents an average of a very uneven geographic distribution. The great bulk of the population is found in the 19 eastern provinces that have formed the historical heartland of China. This reflects the dissimilar historical land-use and settlement patterns of the Chinese (in the east) and the non-Han (in the west). Since the 1960s the Chinese government has promoted settlement of the lands of the western provinces and autonomous regions.

Despite industrialization, China continues to be a predominantly rural, agricultural nation. Although major cities arose very early in Chinese history, the country as a whole has only slowly come to be urbanized. Approximately 59 per cent of the population is classified as rural.

Spontaneous migration from the countryside to the city was prohibited from the mid-1950s because of the lack of productive employment for additional city dwellers. This prohibition was the outgrowth of the belief of Mao Zedong that the class distinction between urban and rural people was a major cause of social inequality in China. During the Cultural Revolution, considerable energy was expended on a campaign of sending educated urban youth to the countryside for several years or even permanent settlement. This movement was intended to provide urban skills in rural areas, thereby reducing peasant interest in the city.

The rustication programme was reduced after the death of Mao in 1976 and virtually eliminated by the end of 1978, at which time migration to the cities began to increase.

Controls have now effectively broken down, with peasants flooding in from stagnant areas of the Chinese interior. Long-term Chinese policy envisages relocating 440 million peasants, 37 per cent of the population, into existing and new towns by 2040.

Residential mobility within cities is also restricted by the government. A person must have government approval and guarantee of a residence and employment before moving. Some residential movement within the major cities has resulted, however, from the large-scale destruction of old housing and its replacement by four- and five-storey apartment buildings. Breakneck commercial development in Shanghai and other high-growth cities has led to summary relocation of many urban dwellers. "China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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