This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A New Kind of Demographic Human Rights Issue in China

Since China has been the world's most populous country for centuries, any human rights abuse related to demography is bound to be BIG. That is certainly the case with the One-Child Policy, as I have often and recently mentioned. Today's New York Times lays out the next big demographic push in China--pushing 250 million rural peasants into cities.
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.

1 comment:

  1. John

    it's hard to get a feel from that article about what is happening exactly. it could be a positive trend or a negative one. on the one hand - China could be replacing rundown shanties with modern high-rise buildings that have better hygiene and public conveniences. on the other hand - it could be (as you say)a program of forced migration.

    it would be interesting to understand how China makes these kinds of decisions. is it primarily tied to local politics and economics - a type of local corruption (all too common in China)? or is there a centralized plan for how China wants to re-structure its population for the 21'st century? for that matter - does China have computer models that predict food production and availability for the upcoming century? you would think these type of studies would be essential for any re-organization of the population, or they will face serious problems.

    DrP, Los Angeles