The government, often by fiat, is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers. So large is the scale that the number of brand-new Chinese city dwellers will approach the total urban population of the United States — in a country already bursting with megacities.
This will decisively change the character of China, where the Communist Party insisted for decades that most peasants, even those working in cities, remain tied to their tiny plots of land to ensure political and economic stability. Now, the party has shifted priorities, mainly to find a new source of growth for a slowing economy that depends increasingly on a consuming class of city dwellers.
The story makes it appear that people are being moved whether they want to or not, which would put this closer to the category of forced migration than urbanization. At the same time, the story makes only the barest of references to the household registration (hukou) system which has officially separated rural and urban populations. CNN commented on this a few months ago:
The institutionalized restriction of people's movement in China goes back for centuries, and was re-introduced by the Communist Party after 1949. Labor rights activist Han Dongfang of China Labor Bulletin says China's booming economy in recent years has made many hukou restrictions disappear, especially those that restrict the freedom of movement.
"But restrictions on access to education, welfare, medical and housing benefits still exist and disproportionately affect the poorest and least educated citizens," he says.
Presumably the people being moved into cities will have their registration status changed from rural to urban and will be given the same rights as currently registered urban residents. Only if this occurs will a related demographic human rights issue be alleviated.