Women from the rural countryside learn skills at the Fuping Vocational Skills Training School to be maids for the newly wealthy comfort class. Since opening up its economy in 1978 and moving toward a market economy, China has lifted about 400 million people out of poverty, but this has led to wide income inequalities. The Communist Party is trying to address this through its notion of a “harmonious society” that has a more even distribution of the benefits of recent decades of speedy economic growth. Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions who go to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China is now experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010), roughly equivalent to two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories. Overall, the Chinese government has tacitly supported migration as means of transforming China from a rural-based economy to an urban-based one.
- RANDY OLSON
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- China's Bling Dynasty_National Geographic Magazine 5/2008