Each city we visited in China had much evidence of the governments efforts to convert China to a land of cities from a land of farms. On a return trip from the Great Wall, some of us on the tour bus started counting the cranes but stopped as we could not count fast enough and we totaled over 100. I asked each of our guides for details about this building boom but did not get consistent answers. Fortunately many of my questions seemed to be answered in a feature article in the International New York Times from November 11, 2013 “In New China, Hope Fades and Homes Crumble.”
Some high rises are being built by capitalists, but most are initiated by the government. The result is just as we experience in the United States, unintended consequences when the government intervenes. Vast areas of China are naturally formed farming villages, but with no sewage treatment are “dirty, messy and substandard.” So the government forces “hundreds of millions” of productive farmers to migrate to planned cities and into high rises. Those that are not willing to move, must endure their power cut off, roads plowed up and finally school closings. Since they are often elderly and only know how to farm, they become unemployed and unhappy in the crumbling, leaky buildings constructed through graft and corruption. They were supposed to receive funds for re-training, but the reporter was unable to find anyone in Huaming who had either received funds or knew of anyone who had. There is no crime, nor gangs in the newly created neat and clean cities, but unemployment is very high as is the suicide rate. These cities often end up being a collection of homogeneous disadvantaged people.
In contrast to these new cities, some people choose to leave for the existing cities, where they live in makeshift shabby homes generally referred to as slums. “Although cramped and messy they are full of vitality and upward mobility.”
The city planners had the idea to consolidate the sprawling villages into neat high rise cities and continue to farm the land. Instead, the old productive farm land lies fallow and the price of rice these farmers used to grow has doubled in price. These forced migration policies as well as the policies of one child per family will likely have far and long lasting negative consequences.