A PILE of rubble stands where Yin Jun's garment workshop used to
be. Mr. Yin lives in a southside Beijing ghetto known as Zhejiang
Village. At one time, it was home to more than 100,000 migrant
workers from Zhejiang Province in southeastern China.
Now the population of Zhejiang Village is shrinking. The Beijing
municipal government is trying to demolish it along with more than
20 other migrant enclaves in China's capital, all part of an effort
to discourage a flood of rural migrants from swamping China's
already crowded cities.
"That was my livelihood," says Yin, looking at what was once his
tailor shop, which his landlord recently tore down. He had borrowed
more than $10,000 from relatives and friends back home in Zhejiang
to open the little business.
China is trying to contain one of the world's largest human
migrations. As the economy has boomed in recent years under
economic reforms, about 100 million people have flocked to cities
in search of jobs and a better life.
Under China's household registration system, every Chinese
citizen must live in a certain city or village. Until economic
reforms gained momentum in the 1980s, citizens were not allowed to
relocate or even travel without official approval.
Fifteen years ago, 80 percent of the population were farm
workers. Mostly illegal immigration to cities has reduced that to
65 percent today. About 130 million more workers still live in
China's farm belt than can be employed there, a number that is
expected to increase to 200 million by the turn of the century,
according to Chinese demographers.
In Beijing, an estimated 3.2 million migrants now make up about
one-fourth of the city's population. They cluster in ghettos with
others from their province and usually specialize in certain jobs:
garments and shoemaking among those from Zhejiang, housekeeping and
child care by those from Anhui, and kebab stalls and other
restaurants by those from Xinjiang.
But officials worry about this human influx, known as mang liu,
or "blind flow." Beijing residents often resent the migrants as
dirty and unpredictable and blame them for rising crime rates.
Chinese officials worry that the migration is undermining social
stability in the cities, where people already are uneasy over
rising prices and joblessness. Because they move around, many rural
people are able to flout China's strict one-child-per-family
policy. But they also are often unable to enroll their children in
school. In Beijing, only one-sixth of the migrants have official
employment papers, and only one-third hold residency permits. City
services, such as the subway, are stretched to their limits. …