This presentation consists of two parts.
First is my research (with co-author Chunni Zhang) on the recent patterns of Rural-Urban Migration in China. Previous research and popular journalism analyzes individuals and depicts a picture in which either or both of the couple migrate, leaving the child in the wife’s or their parents’ care. This paper discusses the typology of migration patterns using married couple as unit of analysis and explores relevant factors. Using survey data from Chinese Family Panel Study (2012), we find half of rural couples migrate at the same time, two thirds of whom migrate to the same location and often with their children. We identify the need for providing for their children and parents as major motivations behind this pattern.
Second is an introduction of the “Peasants in Apartments” Movement, to which I’m exposed as a member of a research group. Beginning after the economic crisis in 2008, several provinces started the practice of demolishing low-rise houses of peasants and building up apartments for them. The goal is to free up land quota for urban development. Curiously enough, in most cases, this endeavor has the peasants’ consent or even support, even though it creates problems for farming and maintaining the life style.
Establishing any sort of causal relationship between the two is by no means my intention. But they are along the same line of transition in Chinese rural society. Combined with the prevalence of migration, the meaning and function of land has been drastically changed, that’s why peasants don’t mind living in apartments. The migrants rarely manage to stay in the city and they are conscious about it, that’s why they agree to invest savings in building home in the country instead of consuming in the city. The perpetual cycle of migration creates a temporary co-presence in both city and country, thus leaving us with a question unanswered: does this mean the end of the Chinese pastoral?