The Rural-Urban Divide Economic Disparities and Interactions in China

The Rural-Urban Divide Economic Disparities and Interactions in China

The Rural-Urban Divide Economic Disparities and Interactions in China

The Rural-Urban Divide Economic Disparities and Interactions in China

Synopsis

This book describes and explains the remarkably large rural-urban divide in economic well-being that exists in China. How did it come about? How is it maintained, in the face of equilibrating market forces? What are the implications for future efficiency and equity in the Chinese economy? The book is divided into five parts: Part 1 introduces the context and scope of the study; Parts 2 and 3 measure and explain the rural-urban divide in income, education, health, and housing, both historically and by means of a household survey; Part 4 analyses the intersectoral movement of factors, both capital flows and the migration of labour; Part 5 ties together the arguments of the work and sets the Chinese experience in the broader context of transition and development economics. The book uses the rigorous analysis and empirical methodology of modern economics. It is primarily aimed at a broad readership of development and transition economists, but China specialists will find much that is of interest.

Excerpt

Our interest in rural-urban disparities and interactions in China was stimulated by our participation in an earlier research project. This involved the microeconomic analysis of a detailed national household survey, the main results of which were published in 1993 as The Distribution of Income in China, edited byKeith Griffin and Zhao Renwei. One of the most remarkable results to emerge from the survey was the extremely high ratio of urban to rural household income per capita. Our recognition that the rural-urban divide therefore deserved study provided the motivation for this book.

Our aim in the book is to describe the rural-urban divide in income and, more generally, in economic welfare, and to explain it. How large is the rural-urban divide? How did it come about? How is it maintained, for instance in the face of equilibrating market forces? What are the implications, both for efficiency and for equity in the Chinese economy?

In the 1950s, when our story begins, development economists, lacking hard information, often wrote on grand issues.Arthur Lewis A Theory of Economic Growth, which appeared in 1955, and Gunnar Myrdal The Poverty of Nations, published in 1968, were outstanding examples. in the 1990s, when our story ends, the conventional approach to development economics is quite different, as a perusal of a recent volume of (say) the Journal of Development Economics would illustrate. the normal approach today is to analyse narrow issues rigorously and in depth. Development economists have mostly descended from the high sierra, with its fine views, and now inhabit the jungles and plains, clearing and hoeing a little patch at a time.

When we became aware of the huge rural-urban disparities that exist in China, we looked for a thorough, systemic and rigorous treatment of the subject, but without success. It is a grand issue, and that fact may have deterred others. We decided to accept the challenge. Our approach is generally in line with the detailed, empirical methodology that is conventional today. We decided to write a series of chapters, each chapter on some particular aspect of rural-urban relationships, and sufficiently self- contained to be read on its own. However, the rural-urban divide in China is a systemic phenomenon, requiring the various topics to be integrated so as to bring out the system that they have in common. We have attempted to do this throughout, but particularly in the concluding chapter. We hope, therefore, that the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Representing 25 per cent of the population of the developing world in 1995, China is of course of great interest in itself. the book could be written solely with China in mind. However, in rural-urban relationships, as . . .

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