Ian Johnson reports for a New York Times series on mass migration in China that a 200 billion dollar project will relocate 2.4 million farmers from the Shaanxi mountains to towns that have been “built from scratch on other’s farmers’ land”:
It is one of the most drastic displays of a concerted government effort to end the dominance of rural life, which for millenniums has been the keystone of Chinese society and politics. While farmers have been moving to cities for decades, the government now says the rate is too slow. An urbanization blueprint that is due to be unveiled this year would have 21 million people a year move into cities. But as is often the case in China, formal plans only codify what is already happening. Besides the southern Shaanxi project, removals are being carried out in other areas, too: in Ningxia, 350,000 villagers are to be moved, while as many as two million transfers are expected in Guizhou Province by 2020.[Source]
Johnson adds that his interviews with locals, some of whom were negatively affected by the move due to added financial costs, negated the official “mantra” that the relocation project in Shaanxi is “voluntary”. He also quotes an official named Mr. Li to illustrate that a negative attitude towards the rural Chinese lifestyle persists:
Underlying the project seems to be a distaste among city dwellers for rural life. During the Cultural Revolution, Mr. Li lost his chance at a college education because the country’s leader, Mao Zedong, closed schools and sent young people to work in the countryside. Mr. Li said the time helped him understand the plight of peasants, but like many elites in China he also speaks dismissively of rural life.
“They need to shower more often, but how can they shower on a dirt floor?” Mr. Li said of the farmers and their old adobe homes in the mountains. “If you don’t shower a lot, that’s no good. Put simply, we want to teach ordinary Chinese people to bid farewell to several backward ways of living.[Source]
Read more about urbanization in China, via CDT.