By Lori Sonken
One in 10 people on Earth live in China’s cities. Over the past decade, nearly 200 million people in China have moved from rural to urban regions, and 8 million more are expected to relocate every year between now and 2050. Just what this means for China and the world has the attention of the Institute for the Social Sciences’ newest collaborative project, China’s Cities: Divisions and Plans.
“Our lens into China’s cities is focusing on the economic, political and social phenomena at play in China’s urbanization,” says Jeremy Wallace, project leader and associate professor of government.
Joined by Jessica Chen Weiss, also in government; Shanjun Li, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; Panle Barwick, economics; and Eli Friedman, international and comparative labor, the interdisciplinary team is examining the factors that divide migrants and native city dwellers, including access to social services, crime, environmental policies and health consequences.
“When migrants move to cities, they face economic as well as cultural and discriminatory barriers that make the move and integration even harder [than in other countries],” Wallace says.
Using surveys, ethnographies and interviews, the team intends to get a better understanding of the issues and attitudes at play in China’s lesser-known cities, such as Zibo and Shenzhen, similar in size to Philadelphia and Chicago, respectively, but practically unknown to anyone outside China. Using interviews, Wallace, Friedman and Chen Weiss will explore attitudes toward social inclusion and exclusion in urban China and their connections with nationalism.
The project also will examine whether environmental policies in China’s cities are effective in curbing pollution and the impact that regulations are having on firms’ behavior and economic policies.
Lori Sonken is the staff writer at the Institute for the Social Sciences.