China is pushing ahead with a grand plan to move 250 million rural population into newly-built cities in the next decade. Urbanization at such a scale is more than relocation from A to B. Wen Guowei, professor at the School of Architecture in China’s prestigious Tsinghua University, had an answer to high-quality urbanization – standard tests.
When interviewed about the challenges of China’ urbanization plan, Wen, an expert in urban planning, laid out 5 key aspects of high-quality urbanization and scientific development. The fourth point is to attract high-quality urban residents.
“As China’s modernization progresses, a large amount of excess labor from rural areas are pouring into cities. To become an urban resident, they first need to acquire necessary qualities, which means additional education. To become an urban resident, one should know about cultures and technologies. At the same time, those who are already urban residents should maintain certain moral standards and be law-abiding.”
When further asked about how to safeguard the quality of urban residents, Wen continued:
“There are many ways. For example, non local people who want to acquire Beijing hukou need first pass a series of standard tests, which may include literacy, law, working skills, etc. We can also borrow from international rules and issue ‘work permits’ to those who want to work in Beijing. Those without a ‘work permit’ would be punished as illegal workers.”
Hukou, a residency registration system in China, divides its citizens into two major camps – the urban and the rural. Typically, an urban hukou means better access to employment, social welfare, healthcare and education, though in recent years, rural hukou is gaining popularity because rural population are born with a piece of land under their names which may sell for a fortune later.
But all in all, an urban hukan, especially in developed cities like Beijing or Shanghai, means a whole package of favored policies that can pretty much determine one’s position on the social ladder. That’s why so many Chinese are rushing to a handful mega cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Shenzhen.
Wen’ remarks ignited fury among Chinese netizens almost instantly. They don’t get the logic of why a Chinese citizen need to pass tests before entering a Chinese city. “Aren’t non locals also Chinese citizens?” Many asked. Netizen 假行僧老巩 commented sarcastically: “At least he didn’t say that we need to apply for a Beijing visa.”
This is not the first when professors or experts from Tsinghua University angered the public for insensible remarks. For example, in September, Yang Yansui, director of the Tsinghua University Employment and Social Insurance Research Center, suggested that China postpone pension payments to the age of 65. The proposal stirred up national debate on upping retirement age. In July, when commenting on a gang rape case, Yi Yanyou, a Tsinghua law professor, said that it did less harm to rape a bargirl than to rape a good woman.
Sometimes one has to wonder why China’s experts have been so alienated from its people; and why professors (教授, jiaoshou) have become “barking animals” (叫兽, also pronounced jiaoshou).