By Louise Watt Associated Press
BEIJING — China has announced plans to expand its cities and improve public services to support economic growth by allowing millions more rural residents to migrate to urban jobs.
The Cabinet plan issued Sunday calls for raising the share of China’s population of almost 1.4 billion people living in cities to 60 percent from 53.7 percent now, a shift of about 90 million people.
The ruling Communist Party sees allowing people to migrate into cities for higher-paid jobs as a pillar of more sustainable growth based on domestic consumption instead of trade and investment.
China’s evolution from a mostly rural society began with market-oriented economic reform in the 1980s. Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have grown to become among the world’s largest but migrants are hampered by a household registration system that binds them to their hometowns. That limits access to schools, health care and pensions even for those who live in cities for years.
Sunday’s announcement of the “National New Type Urbanization Plan” for 2014-2020 gave no financial or other details. But plans announced earlier call for improving housing for 100 million people who live in dilapidated shantytowns.
“Domestic demand is the fundamental impetus for China’s development, and the greatest potential for expanding domestic demand lies in urbanization,” the report said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The ruling party has promised in its latest five-year development blueprint to make the economy more productive by giving entrepreneurs and market forces a bigger role and overhauling banking and other industries.
The urbanization plan says railways will reach cities with more than 200,000 residents by 2020 and those with more than 500,000 people will be linked by high-speed rail, according to Xinhua.
It promises to pursue a “human-centered and environmentally friendly path,” according to Xinhua.
“A scientific and reasonable urban development model should be adopted, with green production and consumption becoming the mainstream in urban economic activities,” it said. “China should strive to push for harmonious and pleasant living conditions.”
Longer-term, authorities expect 300 million people from the countryside to become city dwellers by 2030, the equivalent of migration by the entire U.S. population.
The latest plan promises to give permanent urban status to 100 million rural migrants, according to Xinhua.
A study by Tsinghua University in Beijing found only 27.6 percent of China’s people have urban status with full claims to education, health and other public services, while hundreds of millions of city dwellers with rural status have limited benefits.