County economy can spur urbanization
The past urbanization in China was characterized by a high concentration of economic activity in the big cities. But this pattern is no longer sustainable, as the megalopolises, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and many of the provincial capitals are short of new space, and the low birthrate in the big cities directly influences the demographic structure of the country.
China should therefore attach more importance to the urbanization of its counties rather than continuing to transfer most of the quality capital, technology and talent to the megacities.
For thousands of years, counties have been an important link between cities and villages. The stability and prosperity of counties serve as the foundation for that of cities as well as villages. It is not an accident that the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, which are the most prosperous areas in the country, both have strong county economies.
Counties should be encouraged to concentrate on promoting the development of modern agriculture and their own competitive industries that suit the local conditions to create jobs and cultivate the growth of the middle-income group.
The provincial-level authorities should grant the counties more autonomy to make and implement their own socioeconomic development plans, while strengthening their coordination of the work so as to avoid homogeneous competition among them.
Zhejiang province has done a good job in that regard. It has nurtured diversified competition among its counties, many of which have their own competitive industries that are integral to the province's overall industrial system.
At the same time reform of the rural land system should be accelerated to better protect arable land as well as farmers' rights and interests in the process of urbanization.
Last but not least, it is imperative that the ongoing reform of social security, medical care, education, public housing and other systems should take into account the concerns of farmers to ensure urban public services and social security can fully cover migrant workers. This is an issue that should be focused on when discussing the development of counties, and it is also the key to fundamentally solving the problem of the balance between urban and rural development.
November 23, 2023
November 22, 2023