The New York Times is running an interesting series of articles on how the Chinese government is working to accelerate urbanization, by moving rural farmers off of their land and into apartment blocks in new cities. The first one is titled Pitfalls Abound in China’s Push from From to City.
The stated intent of this move is to drive the Chinese economy and to improve the standard of living for rural Chinese. There are so many problems with this in terms of sustainability that I don’t even know where to start, although I’ll try anyhow.
The New York Times article points out several of the challenges that the residents themselves are facing, such as no jobs in these new cities, and no money to pay for the electricity in their fancy new apartments. And of course there’s a the very valid perspective that these are not really optional relocations, but rather something that the government is pushing people into. It’s enough to make me want to reread the US Constitution, especially the Fifth Amendment and the Second Amendment, especially now that we know that the US government outright lies to us, supposedly for our own protection. Thanks.
I see some serious problems with China’s plan:
This is about government gaining unhealthy power over people.
- A city dweller needs the government badly, or they’ll starve.
- A rural farmer who can feed themselves doesn’t need the government.
City people are rough on the environment.
- A city dweller lives high on resources from “elsewhere” and is disconnected from the impact they’re having on the world.
- A small plot rural farmer uses few resources to live (because they don’t have money to throw around) and takes care of their land so it keeps producing over the long haul.
City people survive on the whims of international trade.
- A city dweller–and indeed a nation of city dwellers–is intimately tied to the fortunes of mass market farming operations that are often very far away.
- A rural farmer doesn’t care about the whims of other countries, international spats, farming policy in far off continents. They just grow food locally, and set aside for lean years.
City living requires huge inputs of energy, that are already waning.
- City dwellers live based on the flow of oil, gas, coal that fuels their unsustainable lifestyles. They are living in a way that will not be possible in a matter of decades.
- Rural farmers know how to live based on what they have available, without needing these inputs. Having said that, recent years and creature comforts have likely made them somewhat reliant on fossil fuels however they are miles closer to knowing how to live with the land than a city person is.
Bottom line: the rural farmer, in spite of being less comfortable, controls their destiny, as long as the government stays the heck out of the way. The city dweller is a cog in a larger machine, in which they have very little say. No wonder the Chinese government wants a country of city people.
I can see why China would have a motivation to do away with small plot rural farmers. Looks to me like “Cultural Revolution Light, run in reverse.” I bet this road is also paved up and down with good intentions–too bad it’s a fully unsustainable path.