Book reviews –

Book reviews — Migration and Urbanization in China edited by Lincoln H. Day and Ma Xia

Johnson, Graham E

MIGRATION AND URBANIZATION IN CHINA. Edited by Lincoln H. Day and Ma Xia. Armonk (New York): M. E. Sharpe. 1994. xvii, 251 pp. US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 1-56324-338-5.

ONE EFFECT of the changes in policy that occurred in the late 1970s was that the collection and analysis of demographic information received a high priority. In late 1986, the Population Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) coordinated a series of provincial surveys on urban migration, which neither the censuses of 1982 and 1990, nor the 1987 1 percent survey of the population, have directly covered. The survey was large, covering 25,530 households (100,267 persons) in forty-three cities and towns in sixteen provinces. This volume presents a series of papers based on the data collected. It is a collaborative effort of Chinese scholars (drawn largely from the Population Research Institute of CASS) and demographers from ANU, although Alice and Sydney Goldstein, of Brown University, long involved in the study of Chinese demographic issues, especially internal migration, contribute a paper.

Lincoln Day introduces the collection and stresses the distinctive character of urban migration in China, which is not merely massive, but reflects the decisive role of governmental intervention in the process. Looking back to the survey and its findings, he notes the dramatic changes in China since 1986, and attempts to place them in a broader global context. Ma Xia describes the nature of the survey, its objectives, organization, coverage, data quality, and the definitions that are important in interpreting the results.

Eight papers follow which deal with aspects of the process of urban migration: Wang Weizhi presents an overview of the patterns of internal migration; the Goldsteins discuss temporary and permanent migration differentials; Zheng Zizhen looks at interregional migration (although his definition of region is extremely broad); Xiong Yu and Day summarize the demographic characteristic of migrants; D. T. Rowland examines issues of family structure; Lin You Su and Day analyze the data on the economic adjustments of urban migrants; and Tan Xiaoqing looks at the fertility behaviour of migrants. Finally, Ma Xia attempts a broad summary of changes in patterns of migration and Lorraine Corner places some of the findings in a comparative context by examining them in relationship to migration in four southeast Asian countries.

It is a useful volume in that it sets a baseline and represents a first effort to examine a critical demographic process in a national context. The extent of change since the survey was completed has been substantial. The movement of population has been huge. The character of regional economies and the nature of urban space have also undergone a remarkable transformation in less than a decade. Some of these shifts are discernible in some of the findings of the survey. The intense control over population movement has become substantially compromised by the increasing role of market forces and the increased decentralization of economic control. Since the survey was completed, for example, between 5 and 7 million migrants have moved into the formerly rural areas of the Pearl River delta region of Guangdong province alone. The very definition of “urban” has undergone a major reformulation in the coastal regions from Dalian to Zhanjiang. Since the reform period began perhaps 200 million people have moved. Developments since 1987 call into question many of the assumptions and some of the arguments of the essays in the volume.

The pace of change in China has been staggering in the past decade. The 1986 survey gives an important snapshot at a moment in time that likely ended one phase of the process of economic change, which has clearly changed not merely the patterns of urban migration, but the very concept of urban. To put these essays into their rightful historical light requires another survey of like proportions, but the next one should include some of the provinces that were excluded in 1986 — notably Anhui, Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangxi and Yunnan.

Copyright University of British Columbia Summer 1995

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