Chengdu to Unify Urban and Rural Registration Status

Striking at the heart of an issue dividing China since the 1950s, the southwestern city of Chengdu proposed this week eradicating the discrepancies between urban and rural citizenship, Southern Weekend reports. The registration status, known in Chinese as “hukou,” continues to give educational and occupational priority to urban residents throughout most of the country. Rural registration is still widely regarded as second-rate citizenship. With labor shortages afflicting China’s manufacturing sector, cities such as Shenzhen have conducted limited experimentation with the two-tiered status. As manufacturing moves westward, freedom of movement and social security for rural workers are an incentive to relocate in Chengdu. Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, announced in July plans to invest $5 billion in an assembly plant in Chengdu. The plant will hire about 100,000 people, according to China Daily. Translation by Don Weinland:

The City of Chengdu formally introduced a proposal a few days earlier “concerning the uniting of urban and rural household registration and realizing freedom of movement for residents in Chengdu.”

The Chengdu Government News Office announced Nov. 16 that Chengdu will thoroughly eradicate discrepancies between urban and rural household registration, promoting unity between registration and residence, and encouraging peasants to enter the city. Peasants will be allowed to bring with them their property and will be able to move freely between city and countryside. The proposal emphasizes a respect of the population’s will.

According to a compilation of news conference minutes, the three highlights of the proposal are:

Freedom of movement and unification of registration and residency

Eradication of the long-term obstacles that have bound the free movement of residents between city and countryside; systematic establishment of a system for registration at the place of residence and free movement; the realization of unity between household registration and actual place of residence, and the comprehensive establishment of a registration and residence unification management system.

Peasants entering the city without the sacrifice of their property

On the foundation of encouraging peasants to enter the city, urban and rural residents can move freely. Peasants entering the city won’t need to sacrifice their property. Peasants can bring with them their estate, find employment and receive social security without the prerequisite of losing their contracted land. Furthermore, the population’s aspirations will receive full respect. Those not entering the city will enjoy basic public services provided by the government, social security and welfare, while at the same time eradicating living and employment obstacles for residents of townships and countryside, and diligently realizing the production power of free movement between urban and rural areas. Residents of cities and townships can go to the countryside freely and enjoy the rural scenery.

Public service and welfare equality in city and countryside

A household at its registered location will enjoy basic political, personal, financial, reproductive and employment rights, as well as public services. Due to long-term systematic restraints on “dual” residency for urban and rural residents, discrepancies and inequalities have existed in public service and social welfare.

Besides these, the specific carrying out of the proposal raises 20 tenets of reform, the most noticeable being the establishment of a unified sub-regional housing security system. Based on the timeframe confirmed by the proposal, a township housing security system should be perfected before the end of 2011. Before the end of 2012, the system should cover the countryside, realizing the goal for all urban and rural residents to have a fixed dwelling.

According to a Xinhua report, the reform has received a wide range of welcome in Chengdu. At the crowded Jin Jiang human resources market in Chengdu, 42-year-old peasant Li Yonggui of Jintang County said:

“I’ve been a peasant for decades. After the unification of urban and rural registration, there’s really no difference between city and country people.”

Opinion expressed in The Chengdu Daily claims household registration is the ice on decades of prosperous development between China’s urban and rural sectors, as well as the biggest obstacle between “dual” and “singular systems.” Because China’s enforcement of the household registration system is a product of the planned economy, it is more and more a huge systematic barrier left over from China’s system reform. As for the socialist market economy, its negative effect is to separate people in different regions based on registration status, becoming a subjective limitation on the free movement of populations. This not only infringes upon residents’ rights to free movement, it also influences the sustainable development of cities.

As the testing grounds for a nationally coordinated reform of city and countryside, Chengdu has led in blowing the horn for this experimental reform. It has been valuable to the expansion of a courageous test to allow urban and rural dwellers more freedom of movement, thoroughly obliterating the discrepancies between such residents. On the road of scientific development, it has taken a new path rich with distinguishing characteristics. In unifying the registration system it is the first to carry out experimentation with remarkable results.

Commentary on The Chongqing Daily’s Longhua Net said the household registration system is one of China’s basic management systems. In the face of rapid development, some reforms suitable for this period of development must be carried out. Chengdu’s method of unifying registration has provided a blueprint for study, with the hope of suiting more areas’ local conditions and formulating a registration management system suitable for local development.

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