Ru­ral res­i­dents re­main re­luc­tant to regis­ter in cities

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By DU­JUAN

Dong Aib­ing works in Taiyuan, cap­i­tal of North China’s Shanxi province, but he was born in a vil­lage called Dai­ji­abao near the city.

The 44-year-old holds ru­ral hukou, but thanks to his job at a kinder­garten in Taiyuan, he bought a 130-square-me­ter apart­ment in the city three years ago.

Re­form of the house­hold reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem in re­cent years means Dong now has the right to regis­ter in the dis­trict where he bought his real es­tate and change his hukou from ru­ral to ur­ban, but he has de­clined to do so.

“I have a home­stead and farm­land back in Dai­ji­abao. If the gov­ern­ment wants to ac­quire the land some day to ex­pand the city, the com­pen­sa­tion would amount to a large sum of money,” he said. “China has a clear ur­ban­iza­tion tar­get, so it would be easy to change my ru­ral hukou to an ur­ban one, but chang­ing it back af­ter­wards would be very dif­fi­cult.”

Dong has a point; ac­cord­ing to the 13th Five-Year-Plan (2016-20), China’s ur­ban­iza­tion rate is sched­uled to reach 45 per­cent by the end of the decade.

Like Dong, an in­creas­ing num­ber of ru­ral res­i­dents who work in cities are un­will­ing to regis­ter for ur­ban hukou.

Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, many hold­ers of ru­ral hukou who owned land, es­pe­cially in EastChina, be­came (yuan) mil­lion­aires or even bil­lion­aires overnight as a re­sult of the high rate of com­pen­sa­tion paid by lo­cal gov­ern­ments who com­man­deered land

At a me­dia briefing in April, Xu Lin, head of the Na­tional Development and Re­form Com­mis­sion’s plan­ning divi­sion, the coun­try’s top eco­nomic plan­ner, said there are many com­plex fac­tors be­hind the re­luc­tance to regis­ter for ur­ban hukou.

“The main rea­son is that ru­ral res­i­dents own their land,” he said.

That is a cru­cial fac­tor, be­cause when some­one buys an apart­ment in a city they don’t gain own­er­ship of the land on which the build­ing stands, and they only have the right to live there for 70 years.

Xu said the gov­ern­ment is work­ing on a pol­icy that will en­cour­age ru­ral res­i­dents in ur­ban ar­eas to ac­cept com­pen­sa­tion in ex­change for own­er­ship of their land and to apply to change their hukou sta­tus. He em­pha­sized that res­i­dents have the fi­nal say on whether they regis­ter in cities or main­tain their ru­ral hukou.

“As pub­lic ser­vices in ru­ral ar­eas and cities be­come in­creas­ingly sim­i­lar, a cer­tain num­ber of ru­ral res­i­dents pre­fer to re­main in their home ar­eas,” he said. “No one will force them to regis­ter in cities be­cause the reg­is­tra­tion re­form is based on in­di­vid­ual con­sent.”

He said many young peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas want to live in cities, so they should be of­fered the chance to ac­cept a re­tainer be­fore they leave, set­tle down and regis­ter in cities. The re­tainer would give the lo­cal gov­ern­ment first re­fusal to pur­chase their land.

“The mech­a­nism for this is not fully es­tab­lished yet, butwe are work­ing on it,” he said.

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