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As the baton was recently passed to China’s new leadership, it was apparent that journalists, academics and the citizenry of the world’s most populous country are keen to move in new directions. Xi Jinping was forced to address a very different political landscape from that of when he was younger – reform and reform now is the clarion call; his inauguration speech focused on combating corruption, but his administration will not only need to balance their doctrinaire communist leanings with the demands of a younger generation weaned on iPhones, but also the very real problem of a new era of urbanization.
CNN.com has run an interesting and informative series on China’s new ambitions, and focused recently on the massive wave of migrant workers moving to the city from rural areas. This in not a new scenario, like most of the world China’s workforce and employment opportunities mainly exist in its cities, and to secure work means moving to them for millions of people. But now, the shift is happening at an accelerated rate and creating a wave of homeless, landless migrant workers. “Last year, the urban population exceeded the rural population for the first time, according to the National Bureau of Statistics,” according to the article and people can only be registered in the town where they are from, not their new urban destination – this means cutting off essential services like healthcare and education for the millions of migrants.
If this just seems like a bureaucratic dilemma, it is a massive one. The “hukou” system, or house registration, is dealt with at a regional level, so this new problem is such that the national government will have to step in and reorganize the entire structure of aiding a peripatetic population. This also stresses the need for the new administration to understand the desires and necessities of its citizenry, a challenge that Jinping’s cabinet will have to rise to in continually new, creative ways. The next ten years of their leadership, it’s safe to assume, will see unprecedented changes.