Chapter 1 Understanding China’s urbanization
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This book is intended to provide the most comprehensive and up-to-date description of Chinese urbanization since the beginning of the period of reform and opening up that began in 1978. It will draw together and summarize the complex and rapidly changing body of demographic and statistical information on Chinese urbanization. Beyond the numbers, it will present results of our extensive fieldwork in all parts of China and an original theory of the way in which political, economic, and social forces have shaped the vast transformation that has occurred as the urban population of China has grown from 17.9 percent in 1978 to over 54.8 percent in 2014. China’s society has undergone a series of radical institutional transformations since reform and opening up. Central governmental control has been reduced and partially decentralized and China now relies largely on market forces as it has changed from an agricultural society to an urban one. This is a true urban transformation with economic, social, spatial and demographic dimensions. Simple population counts or studies that only describe the relationship between economic growth and urbanization do not adequately describe the dynamics or nature of the change. Aggregate numbers tell us little about China’s urban transformation. China is a vast and diverse country and the extent of urbanization varies enormously from region to region due to different development conditions (Li, 2008).

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