Monday, July 29, 2013

China's urbanisation and modernisation

What has been the rate of urbanisation (rural-urban drift) in China since 1949? Describe one of the main influences on planning systems resulting from the transition between the periods 1949-1978 and 1978-present?


  1. Planning philosophy in urban China has witnessed fundamental transformation due to policy reforms. Establishment of PRC in 1949 affected a keenly communistic planning approach, best embodied by danwei. ‘Work units’ that provided housing, employment, education and healthcare to residents for life. After 1978, formal planning approaches were revived as PCR adopted an open policy. Consent for rural Chinese to migrate to urban environments has seen dramatic growth in China’s largest cities, development of highly dense areas and departure from the street-scale danwei.

    China’s urbanisation rate is unprecedented. It continues at approximately 3.00%-5.00% annually.

    One current influence on planning is the need for efficient transport systems. Danwei allowed for short commutes, made on foot or bicycle. The sprawled cities are dependent on congested, complex motorways to navigate commutes between work and home.

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  4. China’s urbanised population increased from 10.6% in 1949 to 50.6% in 2011 with a historical urbanisation rate of 2-4% and a present rate of 2.8%. Between 1949 and 1978, planning was influenced by the Danwai concept, somewhat self-contained communities providing for the wants and needs of a population, such as healthcare and educational services, manufacturing and commercial employment, and housing. Post 1978, China changed from a planned economy to a market economy, liberalising both market and internal migration systems, allowing rural persons to both move and live in urban areas. Planning underwent a revival, arguably by necessity, with China facing “modern” issues such as housing shortages, inadequate infrastructure, and dealing with migrant communities.

    Central Intelligence Agency of the US. (2013). The World Factbook – China. Retrieved from

    Li, B. and David Piachaud. (2006). Urbanization and Social Policy in China. Asia-Pacific Development Journal, 13(1), 1-26. Retrieved from

    Tom Chi
    ID: 1813142

  5. Wars in Ancient China between dynasties and foreign nations has shaped Chinese planning and the location of its cities. 1949 marked an important year in Chinese planning as the People’s Republic of China was established. During this time, up until 1978, China had shifted to a unique informal planning system which focused on ‘work unit’ ideology known as 'danwei'. During this time, the proportion of people in urban areas moved from around 10% in 1949, jumping to 20% in 1960, to approximately 19% by 1978. Since 1978, market economics combined with a more formal planning system has lead to a 40% increase in urban population in 60 years.

    Sources: Lecture slides

    Andrew Miller - 5850354

  6. China has experience rapid urbanisation as in 1949 only 10% of the total population lived in cities but by 2000 this had risen to 50%.

    In 1949 the Peoples Republic of China was established which took a centralised planned approach to economic policy. An important aspect of this was a Danwei system in which workers at a factory were collectively provided with the basic necessities of life.

    In 1978 China reformed its national economic policy to become market driven. In the post reform area farmers were permitted to migrate into cities. The result was a rapidly growing urban population which created a lot of demand for housing and infrastructure.

    Source: lecture slides

    Chris Groom (2988294)

  7. The urban growth in China from 1949 to 2010 has seen an increase of 38% in the urban proportion. To date, the urbanisation rate of 1-6% has been rising annually; marked since the PRC and its equalitarian policies were established in 1949. The urban planning system was seen as a vital tool for economic prosperity, this saw the creation of Danwei, these were small community units that provided residents with essential services such as healthcare, education and employment. These self-contained communities were modelled on the equalitarian ideology based on the ‘planned economy’ up until 1978.
    Since 1978, decentralisation gave way to an open-market state which permitted rural-to-urban migration, this later lead onto increases in economic opportunities as well as housing issues.

    Source – Lecture 2: Wan, J. (2013, July 29). A review on the development of urban planning and Chinese cities: The challenges we are facing now. Published lecture notes, University of Auckland – National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland, New Zealand.

    Andrew Poon
    ID: 5691154

  8. The low rate of urbanisation in China between 1949 and 1978 was influenced by two important government policies during that period: the “danwei” and the “hukou” systems. The former system created multipurpose work units in which workers were expected to reside for their whole life, while the latter was an identity and welfare system that effectively prevented those from rural areas from migrating into urban areas.

    The rate of urbanisation rose significantly after 1978 as the government shifted towards a market driven economy. The policies promoted movement from rural to urban areas, and by 2010, the proportion of urban population had increased from 19% to 50%. Because of this rapid change, many cities in China are now constantly stressing about providing enough housing, infrastructure and transport services to accommodate the needs of its residents within a short time period.

    Tianhang Liu

  9. The establishment of the PRC in 1949 saw planning systems that were largely dominated by the concept of Communism, and influenced by the Soviet Union. Concepts such as Danwei (the work unit) and Liangpiao (food coupons) acted to maintain equality in access to life necessities. During this period, there was minimal urbanisation (approximately 9%) largely due to the concept of Hukou that essentially forbade migration of farmers into the urban areas.

    The major transition between the periods of 1949-1978 and 1978+ on planning systems in China has been the movement from a planned economy to a market economy. This transition essentially opened the doors for urbanisation by removing barriers and creating incentives. Dramatic growth in the urban population has been seen over the past 30 years, growing from 19% to approximately 50%.

    Lecture 2: Wan, J. (2013, July 29). A Review on the Development of Urban Planning and Chinese Cities: The challenges we are facing now. Published lecture notes, University of Auckalnd - National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland, New Zealand

    Bloomberg News. (2012, January 17). China’s Urban Population Exceeds Countryside for First Time. Retrieved August 7, 2013, from Bloomberg:

    Emma Chandler
    ID: 2920994

  10. The rate of urbanisation is China since 1949 has ranged from 2-4.5%, currently at approximately 3%. In 1949 the P.R.C was established, along with a planned economy, which introduced the Hukou system (identifying people as being either urban or rural) and the Danwei, work unit concept (owned by the state providing all the services needed by those within the work unit). In 1978 China established a market economy, in which farmers were permitted to migrate to urban areas, seeing a large rise in the urban population, from below 20% in 1978 to 50% in 2010. It is estimated that 1 billion people will live in China’s cities by 2030.

    Chan, K. W. 2009. Urbanization in China - What is the True Urban Population of China? Which is the Largest City in China? [Online]. Available: [Accessed 31/07/2013]

    Mckinsey Global Institute 2009. Preparing for China's Urban Billion, McKinsey & Company.

    Wan, J., 2013. Lecture 2: A Review on the Development of Urban Planning and Chinese Cities: The Challenges we are Facing now. Planning 332. University of Auckland – National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries. Auckland, New Zealand. unpublished

    Victoria Bell
    ID: 1798704

  11. China developed a restrictive planning system with the establishment of the 1949 P.R.C policy. At this time the government took a communism approach to planning. With equality as its main influence, Danwei (work units) were built and owned by the government. The Hukou system caused the rate of urbanisation to be low in China due to restrictions placed upon farmers entering or migrating to the work units.

    From 1978 onwards Chinas focus transitioned towards a market economy. Policy reforms lifted restrictions on famers entering cities and urbanisation grew (20% of the total population living in cities in 1960, to 50% in 2010). Today, cities in China such as Shanghai and Beijing face issues of housing and infrastructure shortages due to rapid urbanisation.

    Wan, J. (2013). A Review on the Development of Urban Planning and Chinese Cities: The challenges we are facing now. Unpublished. University of Auckalnd - National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland, New Zealand.

    Teresa George

  12. Since 1949 the developments of the Chinese economic reforms have influenced the planning system and have led to Chinas current status as the second largest economy in the world.

    In 1949 the People’s Republic of China was introduced, this planned approach is best described by the development of Danweis which provided for the needs of people including factory work, housing, education and healthcare within their “working units”.

    After 1978, a transition occurred to a modern market economy this allowed for rural to urban migration, and shifted away from Danweis and factory work. The proportion of the urban population in China has increased rapidly by approximately 32% from 1978 to 2010.

    Due to rapid urban migration, one of the main current issues is transportation infrastructure and the associated effects this has on public transport, congestion and drainage.

    Source: Wan, Junzhe given name. "A review on the development of urban planning and Chinese cities: The challenges we are facing now". Lecture 2, Planning 332, the University of Auckland, July 29, 2013.

    Sophie Waldron

  13. China is experiencing rapid urbanization in terms of increases in the urban population and the number of its cities and towns since 1949. The rate was steadily increasing since the government encourage the rural people to migrate to urban area. The proportion of urban population steadily increased from about 10% in 1949 to 50% in 2010. Between 1949-1978 was the Planning economy period of Chinese cities. The urban-rural dual structure and the Danwei society. In this period urban planning was influenced by the former Soviet Union and the implementation of the national economic plan. Post 1978 was the transition after the reform, Chinese economy moved from planned economy to market economy. Farmers were permitted to migrants into urban areas. There was a reformation of housing, medical and education.

    Source: Lecture slides

    Thidarat Samart

  14. During the first 30 years just after the RPC was founded, the urbanisation process in China was slowed down by the central government, especially by those restrictions on rural-urban migration (e.g. urban-rual dual structure and the danwei society).

    Urbanisation process actually accelerated after the policy reform in 1978, which successfully replaced the planned economy with market economy. From 1978 to 2010, the proportion of urban population in China increased from 20% to 50%; by 2025 another 300 million rural residents are estimated to move into urban areas.

    The migrant workers in cities do contribute to China’s economy; meanwhile, it brings a number of serious issues. Urban housing shortage is seen as the outstanding one; nowadays, a number of productive farmland is unsustainable taken for housing projects, which needs government pay attention to.

    Li tianhang

  15. The rate of urbanisation in China since 1949 was slow, there were barely any shift from rural to urban living. This is was due to the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1948 with a planned economy. Everyone's lives were controlled and planned out as every single person were organised into their particular Danwei (work unit), they belonged to their danwei which provided them with all the basic services such as healthcare and schools and basic necessities of life. However, in order to get these services and basic needs of life such as rice, wool and meat they must work for it and earn points to gather liangpiaos (food coupons) which then they can exchange for the things they need. The biggest limitation to urbanisation at the time was the restricted migration between cities. People were basically not allowed to leave their home town and their danwei.

    Up until 1978 urbanisation increased significantly, from about 10% of the population living in urban areas in 1949 to over 50% today, with an approximate rate of 2-5% growth annually. This dramatic shift was mainly due to the new open policies and shift to market economies, it allowed people to migrate between areas of china and this was seen as a great chance and a way of freedom by most of the people in the rural villages who previously belonged to their danwei. They were free to go where they like, and majority of those wanted to seek for better life styles and work opportunities in the big cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guang Zhou. Therefore, it resulted mass migrations to urban areas and clustered cities. Very crowed and crammed, creating countless of problems such as pollution, contamination, the need for better transport systems and more housing units and thus, outlining China's planning approaches today.

    Sources: Interview Ms Feng and Lecture slides

    Miao Miao Zhen
    ID: 5690514

  16. Since 1949, China’s urbanisation was restricted by a planned economy. Policies like danwei (work unit) and hukou (a form of identification to identify where a person lives) slowed down the urbanisation rate to 2-4%, as danwei gave everyone at the same society level equal treatment; and it was difficult to change the living area registered on your hukou to another city, especially if it were a large one.
    After 1979, China’s economy changed to be more market based, migration systems were changed to adapt, and many Chinese moved from rural to urban areas. China’s urban population increased dramatically from 10.6% to 50.6%. However, at present this continuous migration (3%) from rural to urban has imposed much stress on housing, transport and etc.

    Source: Lecture slides

    Melissa Chen