Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Residence Permit

Have a look at this article on the beeb. It's all about the proposed abolition of the Hukou or residence permit in some provinces. This is the bureaucratic device that has created the huge separation between the villagers and the city dwellers. Ironically, for a government that came to power for the peasants and in the name of the peasants workers and soldiers, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hasn't exactly treated them as the respected members of the proletariat that they claim they are. Forced to stay in the countrside because of this residence permit (enforced since 1953) they have remained in a relatively undeveloped state, and are still extremely poor to this day - especially compared to their city dwelling compatriots. With this residence permit, the peasants cannot leave their local area to work - they cannot work in cities at all, although they are free to travel (if they can get the money! Though every day we see tourist parties of peasants looking at Beijing's famous tourist sights).

What will the effect be of this partial lifting? Well, an influx from the poorer areas to the richer for sure, but will it affect Beijing and Shanghai? They are not on the list of hukou-free zones, though I believe it will be impossible to stop people coming here to look for work when the lawas are relaxed. Presently, there are still many migrant workers who come here from the countryside illegally to try and get some of the ecomonic action. This law will not stem the flow, but can only increase it. This is going to pose new questions in terms of accommodating all the new workers, finding work for them and raise problems with security (what do thoe who don't find work do?).

On the positive side, I guess they have found a new way of filling up all these huge empty tower blocks that have been constructed and left void...


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