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 High-Rises, High-Rises, More High-Rises: China's Urbanization on Steroids (Posted: 05/28/2015)

Made another trip to hometown Xi'an in China this month, along with three other cities, Beijing, Taiyuan, Yulin and two county towns. What attracted me more than anything this time were the high-rise buildings everywhere, in small as well as big cities, in urban centers as well as in suburbs. One realizes that this is what China's urbanization in action looks like. It is fast! It is furious!

As an ancient civilization, China's culture could give people the impression of an old country changing slowly. But over the last three decades, economically and physically, China has become the speediest country on earth. It has been constructing a brand new country in a big hurry on a grand scale, not only making up the lost time, but also catching up with developed countries with roads, bridges, cars, trains, high-rises, and urbanization!

Once upon a time, say 30 years ago, more than 80% of China's population was rural. By 2010, the percentage shrank drastically to 50%. In 2012, for the first time in its history, China's urban population surpassed that of the rural at 51%. That's not all. In the next twenty years, the number of urban dwellers is expected to reach 75% of the total population! Where would all the new urbanites live? In those new high-rises, of course!

Also once upon a time, the infamous hukou, the 1950s-style household registration system, tied rural people down on the land and prevented them from moving to the cities except for rare occasions, such as attending college or joining the army, making them literally second class citizens in a supposedly classless society. Now overnight, those rural citizens, especially those living in counties near or around big cities, by trading in their land rights and farm houses, are fast becoming China's newest and very rich urban dwellers!

Here is a look at a sample of the high-rises I saw during a car ride between downtown Xi'an and its east suburbs, or more accurately former suburbs as they are now all part of an ever expanding metropolis Xi'an.

One does, however, wonder if they are not building too much, with many of those towers still empty and yet more are being built. Would they be able to sell them all? Would everyone have to live in those high-rises? Or does urbanization mean endless high-rises?


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