New City-cluster Reform Zones Forming New Developmental Paradigm

Translated by CDT from China News Online:

The new round of city cluster reform zones are not all about pure economics; they are starting to tackle social and equality issues that are just as important as the economy in the country’s pursuit of a harmonious society.

Last year, Chongqing and Chengdu joined hands in a pioneering reform zone that tries to bring people with a rural hukou (residency) into the fold of benefits that have long been accessible mostly to urbanites. Some migrant workers have made the leap to become an “urban hukou” holder, an identity that used to set the rural poor apart from the urban rich.

In Wuhan and eight other neighboring cities that have come together to form another reform zone, one “hukou residency” will soon guarantee free travel in those cities and migrant workers in Wuhan also enjoy health care and other social security benefits like a city native.

The Wuhan-center city cluster and another tri-city metropolitan area which includes Changsha, Zhuzhou and Xiangtan in Hunan Province are both building economies that are conservationist on resources and environmentally friendly.

These are some of the recent examples of reform zones that have set out to have a different goal in sight, unlike Shenzhen, Zhuhai and other early cities during the opening up era. In Shanghai, Pudong district started experimenting with combining economic reform and other reforms. In Tianjin, Binhai new zone two years ago started trying a new model of industrialization, with a focus on innovation, high tech and service industries.

The Chongqing-Chengdu twin-city arrangement aims to explore an option to change the decades-old social-economic structure that discriminates against the rural poor in favor of the urban well-off. The Wuhan city-cluster and Hunan tri-city zone hope they can avoid the conventional path of “first develop, then clean up” and create a new way that grows the economies with less resource consumption and environmental damage.

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