Saturday, March 05, 2005

China has slums?

I was under the impression that the Chinese government's attention to urban housing issues was so efficient that there really isn't much of a slum problem. Indeed, when I visited one year ago I really didn't see much urban poverty, although a short trip to the countryside did reveal quite squalid conditions.

The post below on the "latin americanization" of China inspired me to do a bit more research, and I'm finding out that the idea I had that the right way to urbanize is the Chinese way could be very wrong. Indeed, the
...UN Habitat... biannual report, "The State of the World's Cities"... places China in the same league as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in their share of urban slum dwellers. Habitat estimates that almost 40 per cent of the urban population in Chinese cities are slum dwellers and that half of them live on less than US$ 1 a day - almost double the percentage which do so in countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand.
This really came as a surprise. Maybe the biggest difference between India and China is indeed its freedom. This quote from the head of China's housing industry association is quite
revealing:
"It's not that there aren't people doing research. In fact, there are many scholars focusing on this issue in China, but few of them speak out," she said. "This is mostly because there's general disagreement about what the main problem is, and where we should focus our efforts."

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