The latest data on population movement in 2019 shows a strengthening trend in 2018, with the provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong still showing strong appeal.
Together, they account for 70% of the positive net interprovincial migration in China. For Zhejiang, 90% of this population is concentrated in two cities, Hangzhou and Ningbo. For Guangdong province, the most sought-after cities are Shenzhen, Canton, and Foshan. Zhejiang has a positive balance of 841,000 people and Guangdong 826,000. Xinjiang with +271,500, the city of Chongqing +134,700, and Fujian +51,000 follow in the ranking.
Shandong province, with a population of over 100 million, has a negative balance of 199,800. The three provinces (Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning) in the Northeast continue to see a negative balance, with -330,130 in 2019.
The South-East largely remains the beneficiary of this migration while the North-East suffers. Inequalities are also found between large and small towns.
Large cities/Small cities
In China as a whole, cities in the first and second categories (the 30 largest cities) have positive migration balances. In contrast, cities in the third to fifth categories have a negative balance, which is not going to stop.
Beijing and Shanghai are exceptional cases; they have taken measures to limit the population influx. The capital, which has even implemented a policy of departure, continues to record a negative balance; from 2018 to 2019, it has certainly decreased, from -220,000 to -6,300; Shanghai, the balance is slightly positive, +10,000. On the contrary, Canton has a positive balance of +250,000, and Shenzhen’s, undisclosed, is estimated at +300,000.
The primary motivation for this emigration is the economic factor. The province of Guangzhou, China’s most populous province with 115 million inhabitants, has a GDP equivalent to that of South Korea. Various policies are also attractive; Hangzhou has defined a three-year plan to encourage the creation of businesses for students. The capital of Zhejiang has a whole range of measures to attract students from abroad with return stipends based on levels of study. These various provisions target one million students.
Real estate tension
Of course, this flimsy urbanization of the largest cities poses management problems in terms of housing and increases pressure on prices. The purchase limits introduced in 2010 in many large cities are intended to limit price increases.
Such population influxes disturb the standard Western rules that have been predicting the bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble for the past 15 years regularly. The population factor is upsetting a lot of reading grids, and when we forget it, we see China through myopic glasses.
This quasi departure is not going to stop. It contributes to accentuate the inequality between the south-eastern facade and the center of the country and between the big cities and the rest of the country.
Are the central government’s rebalancing policies a real counterweight?
23 June 2020