Chinese Farmers' Calls for Change Go Unanswered

Jul 26, 2016 | 09:15 GMT
Chinese Farmers' Calls for Change Go Unanswered
Workers pick melons on the outskirts of Urumqi. The reforms that will be crucial to improving the economic prospects of China's farmers and migrant workers remain stuck in their initial stages.
(GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Of the many divides partitioning Chinese society, perhaps none is as stark or systemic as the rift between urban and rural residents. Last year, the 760 million citizens living in Chinese cities earned nearly three times as much disposable income as their 590 million peers in the countryside. In many cases, that number was much higher. Beyond money, however, registered urban homeowners have access to social services and benefits, including health care and public education, that all but a few rural residents do not. Perhaps the most important advantage, though, is the effective right to own and sell real estate. Over the past two decades, that right has driven the greatest wave of wealth creation China has ever seen. But for all intents and purposes, rural residents have been excluded from sharing in the spoils -- no small matter for a country whose government rose to power on the back of...

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