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Over the last four decades, China has experienced rapid urban growth and massive rural to urban migration. Between the late seventies to the early 21st century, more than 300 million people moved from rural areas to cities, increasing its urbanization rate from 17.9% (1978) to 39.1% (2002) over a period of 24 years. It took Britain 120 years, the United States 80 years, and Japan more than 30 years to accomplish this. In the past few decades, China’s urban population growth has been higher than that of Asia as well as the world. In 1982, some 210 million people lived in the urban areas accounting for 21% of the total population. By the end of 2015, China had a total urban population of 771 million or 56.1% of the entire population. By 2025, it is estimated that about 70% of China’s population will be living in the cities.

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Xian, an “urban village” engulfed by an expanding city in Guangzhou. Photo credit: Eric Jenkins-Sahlin

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