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How Beijing's New Residency System Reinforces Rural-Urban Inequality

The Chinese capital is instituting a process through which migrants can achieve residency and its privileges. But who does it really benefit?
A migrant worker in Beijing looks out from his lodging.
A migrant worker in Beijing looks out from his lodging.Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Between 2000 and 2010, China’s population as a whole increased by 6 percent. The story was different in the major cities. Beijing’s population, for instance, rose by more than 40 percent, to 20 million, with most of the growth due to rural-to-urban migration. The surge in the capital’s number of migrant residents, which has abated only recently, added to such problems as air pollution and traffic congestion.

So now Beijing is looking to cap its population, currently estimated at more than 21 million, at 23 million by 2020. In particular the city is targeting the eight million migrants who make the capital their home. Last year, for instance, Beijing reduced its number of incoming migrants by half.