Xu Xianping, Vice Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission; Huang Ming, Vice Minister of Public Security; Liu Kun, Vice Minister of Finance; Yang Zhiming, Vice Minister of Human Resources and Social Security; Wang Shiyuan, Vice Minister of Land and Resources and Qi Ji, Vice Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development
The press conference concerns the National New Urbanization Plan （2014-2020） which was issued on Sunday, March 16.
Xu Xianping: Dear friends from the press,
Good morning. Recently, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China （CPC） and the State Council officially issued the "National Plan on New Urbanization." It is a macroscopic, strategic and fundamental plan, and it is also China's first plan on urbanization enacted by the central authorities.
The compilation of the plan took three years, during which thirteen ministerial agencies, including the NDRC, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Land and Resource and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, jointly formed the compilation working group, and conducted coordinated target research and field trips.
The CPC Central Committee and the State Council have paid a lot of attention to the compilation of the plan. President Xi presided over the Central Financial Work Leading Group meeting and Political Bureau Standing Committee meeting, to review the text of the plan. Premier Li Keqiang has given several instructions and heard several debriefs. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli has called several meetings to try to perfect the plan. The text of the plan has also been submitted to the Central Work Conference on Urbanization for deliberation.
The plan's compilation process focused on collecting ideas from people from all fields. The compilation staff carefully gathered opinions from delegates to the National People's Congress, members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, experts and academics. Various research institutes, such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, along with some international agencies, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, have all provided their ideas about the plan.
The plan is divided into eight sections, which contain 31 chapters. The total word count is nearly 30,000 characters. The main content can be summarized as "one main line," "four tasks," and "five reforms."
The main line is that the plan should closely center around improving the quality of urbanization to accelerate the transformation of urbanization development that will see people-oriented urbanization as an essential value, and city clusters as a major form of urbanization, which will be supported by comprehensive accommodating capacity and safeguarded by institutional innovation. China's new type modernization should be people-oriented. Areas of modernization should develop in step with each other. The arrangement should be optimized, it should be ecologically friendly and carry forward cultural traditions.
The "four tasks" mean that in urbanization, we have to gradually settle the former agricultural population who have migrated to the cities, optimize urbanization, and increase the sustainability of cities to eventually achieve unified urban and rural development.
The "five reforms" means the government will step up efforts to manage population, control land resources, secure funds, build urban housing and protect the environment, to perfect the institutional system for urbanization development.
Thank you, friends from the press, for your attention and coverage of China's urbanization plan. Now I am giving the floor to six people, who will take your questions.
China Central Television: The long-expected urbanization plan has finally been released. It covers a wide range of issues. I have some questions for Vice Minister Xu Xianping. Since the NDRC was in charge of formulating the plan, what do you think are the major breakthroughs and highlights of the plan? In the future, how will the urbanization drive benefit China? Thank you.
Xu Xianping: Since China introduced the reform and opening-up policy more than 30 years ago, we have made significant progress in urbanization, but there are also many conflicts and unsolved problems. The urbanization drive has now reached a crucial stage. The former extensive expansion approach is no longer appropriate. We must find a new way out. The public are curious about why the urbanization drive is called "new-type" urbanization. I think there are six reasons.
First, the plan focuses on the people and will try to convert the rural population into urban residents in an orderly manner. Last year, about 730 million people lived in cities and towns, and more than 200 million of them were migrant workers and their families. Although the majority of Chinese industrial workers are migrant workers, they have never enjoyed the benefits that city dwellers enjoy. Therefore, the plan requires us to promote the reform of the household registration system and the equalization of basic public services, implement a household registration policy with different eligibility requirements for people under different conditions, and progressively grant urban residency to rural migrant workers and their families who are both willing and able to stay in cities and towns where they have had jobs or carried out business for a long time. A residence permit system will be introduced to allow people who have moved from rural areas to cities but have not yet gained urban residency to enjoy basic public services. Therefore, the plan is the first document regulating the proportion of permanent urban residents and the proportion of urban residents with a household registration, and I think this is its biggest difference from the past, and the biggest area of progress.
Second, the plan stresses the integrated development of industrialization, the application of IT, urbanization and agricultural modernization. This is an inevitable requirement of China's modernization drive. Industrialization is the driving force of modernization, agricultural modernization is its foundation, IT application provides fresh ideas and as new impetus, and urbanization provides a platform. By integrating industrialization, the application of IT, urbanization and agricultural modernization, we will push modernization further forward.
Third, the plan stresses improving the spatial layout, which requires the coordinated development of cities and small towns, based on major city clusters. The three city clusters in eastern China, namely the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta, account for only 2.8 percent of the country's total land area, but they are home to 18 percent of its total population and contribute 36 percent of its total GDP. Due to the deteriorating environment and increasing global competition, they now feel a pressing need for adjustment, optimization, transformation and upgrading. Therefore, the plan requires us to foster and develop new city clusters, such as the Chengdu-Chongqing region, the Central China Plain and the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, in central and western China where there are more resources and a better environment, in order to promote the balanced development of our geographical space and create new regional economic growth poles. Currently, China has 142 cities with a population of more than one million, while in 1978, there were only 29. There are 25 cities in the world with a population of more than 10 million, and six of them are located in China. The country also has 10 cities with a population of between five million and 10 million. Some of these megacities are facing conflicts between their growing population and decreasing urban carrying capacity. There must be an effective regulation to tackle the problem. Therefore, the plan requires us to intensify the integration of transportation and information networks, promote the distribution of key industries and public resources, and shift away some of the megacities' economic and other functions, so as to help small and medium-sized cities and small towns to develop industries and attract residents to city clusters. While tapping the full potential of major cities to drive the development of their surrounding areas, we must accelerate the development of small and medium-sized cities, and promote the development of small towns with special focuses.
Fourth, the plan stresses ecological conservation. We must promote green, circular and low-carbon development, conserve water, land, energy and other resources and use them efficiently, intensify ecological restoration and environmental treatment, promote the development of green cities and smart cities, and encourage green lifestyles and low-carbon city construction, operation and management methods. We must reduce the negative effects on nature and environment as much as possible.
Fifth, the plan stresses cultural continuity and focuses on the special features of different cities. We must bring out these differences and promote the diversified development of different cities according to their own natural, historical and cultural characteristics, and avoid cookie-cutter development. We must protect cultural relics when renovating old cities, promote traditional cultural values when building new cities, and build up beautiful cities and towns with a long history, a rich culture, a unique landscape and salient ethnic characteristics and people-oriented cities with profound cultural atmosphere and salient modern features.
Sixth, the plan stresses reform that will set up a mechanism conducive to the healthy development of urbanization. We will comprehensively reform key areas and links concerning people, land and funds, gradually change the urban-rural dual structure, and integrate the developed and underdeveloped regions in cities. The reform will give fresh impetus to the urbanization drive and release its full potential.
In a word, these six parts are the new ideas and the implementation focus of the plan. Thank you.
Wen Wei Po （Hong Kong）： We have noticed that China's new urbanization has focused on resettling approximately 100 million rural migrant workers and other permanent urban residents in cities and towns. My question is, how will you guarantee the goal can be achieved and how will you reform the household registration system? How will you guarantee that migrant workers will be entitled to a series of public services, including employment, technical and skills training and social security?
Huang Ming: Thanks for your concern about the reform of the household registration system. I would like to talk about the process. In line with the 18th CPC National Congress and the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, the Ministry of Public Security and the National Development and Reform Commission collaborated with the rest of the ministries present here and drafted the "Opinions on Further Pushing Forward Household Registration System Reform" after rounds of investigation and deliberation on our experience. Last year, we collected many public opinions on the paper. Then, after the Central Urbanization Work Conference in December, we improved and modified the draft in light of the latest guidelines. In mid-February this year, the General Office of the State Council issued the draft to departments and the public, in order to seek more opinions. The draft is still being revised. We will submit it to the CPC Central Committee and the State Council for approval as soon as possible.
As for how to launch the reform, I can only talk about two principles, since the draft has not yet been officially ratified. First, the policies of the household registration system reform are in accordance with the Plan, and the principles of the reform are clear. We respect the people's will and will let them make their own choices. Different areas will be encouraged to implement the reform in light of their local circumstances and at their own pace. We will first settle the hukou issue for those migrant workers who have stayed in cities or towns for a very long time and who have strong skills. In the meantime we'll also gradually increase the number of graduates from universities, colleges and technical schools as well as technical workers to settle down in cities.
Second, the reform of the household registration system is in line with the goals of the new-type urbanization, and the measures and goals of reform also correspond. I can tell you that the Ministry of Public Security and the National Bureau of Statistics have made related researches and forecasts. We believe the goal to settle about 100 million people in cities and towns is practical and in line with the reality. However, the realization of the goal should not only rely on adjusting household registration policies, but also on the healthy development of urbanization, by speeding up the development of small-and-medium sized cities and towns with a population of at least 2,500, formulating relevant policies to guarantee the equal access to public services. What's more, we need to fully respect the will of the farmers.
Yang Zhiming: Thank you for your concern for the rural migrant workers. China has 269 million migrant workers, who have made great contributions to our urbanization and will do even better under the new-type urbanization. The migrant workers are entitled to basic public services, a point that is relevant to the reform of the household registration system that Vice Ministers Xu and Huang mentioned. As for your question on employment, skills, technical training and social security, we'll focus our efforts on maintaining and increasing employment for migrant workers, protecting their fundamental labor rights and interests, raising their technical abilities, encouraging them to integrate into their enterprises, helping their children to integrate into schools, their families into communities and the whole group into society.
To put it briefly, we need to guarantee 10 things for migrant workers. They are: to make sure they are employed when they move into the cities, have training before they are employed, sign contracts before joining the workforce, get paid for their jobs, get access to social security, know where to appeal for their rights and interests, live in improved conditions, spend their spare time in cultural activities, have schools for their children and set goals in their careers.
We also aim to accomplish two fundamental transformations. We will upgrade the migrant workers into modern technical workers and change their identities into urban dwellers so far as they are willing, under the concerted efforts of governments, enterprises and migrant workers. Here I would like to tell you that the plan to raise the technical skills of migrant workers has been highlighted in the New Urbanization Plan and divides into five categories. First, developing training for migrant workers to get them employed. We plan to train 10 million people each year. By 2020, each migrant worker will enjoy technical training subsidized by the government. The aim of this is to eradicate the cases in which migrant workers with no skills are employed. Second, we'll develop training for employed migrant workers to improve their work skills. By 2020, we'll train 10 million people to upgrade the majority of migrant workers from junior workers to new-type technical workers. Third, we will develop training for high-tech workers and workers who want to start their own businesses. We will train 1 million people a year, focusing on senior workers, technical workers and senior technicians. Fourth, we will develop charitable training in communities. Fifth, we will develop preparatory training in labor skills for rural middle and high school students who have not entered the next level of their education as well as for retired soldiers or soldiers who are transferred to civilian work.
According to the Plan, we will support the construction of a number of specialized training bases for migrant workers to learn technical skills, through cooperation between schools and enterprises. In summary, we will enable migrant workers to learn skills, hold diplomas, find work and earn increased salaries, so as to fundamentally solve the dilemma of the job market, whereby demands for high skilled technicians are high but cannot be met in some areas. We will do this to support the development of human resources for the new-type urbanization.
Because public services cover too many areas, we need to adopt different tactics in different areas and solve the urgent problems migrant workers face step by step. To solve these problems, we'll coordinate with relevant departments to hit the nail on the head and overcome difficulties that stand in our way. We'll help more migrant workers increase their income by developing their skills, and enjoy fundamental public services through settling down in cities and towns. Even for those who do not settle in urban areas, we'll allow them to gradually benefit from fundamental public services. We'll make relentless efforts in building modern cities and allow migrant workers and urban dwellers to share the fruits of urbanization.
Die Welt: I have two questions. The first is about expenses. We see from the analysis from the central authorities that it costs between 60,000 and 130,000 yuan to convert one person's hukou （household registration）。 How did you come up with that figure? Who is going to pay for the expenses? Second, you mention at the beginning that the World Bank is your advisory body. What advice have you taken from the World Bank? Thank you.
Xu Xianping: Liu Kun, vice minister of Finance, will answer the first question.
Liu Kun: Securing funds is important for the process of urbanization, and we address it mainly by making institutional innovations. We will speed up the reform in the financial and taxation system and the investment and financing mechanisms, make innovations in financial services, open up market access, and build a diversified and sustainable financial guarantee mechanism.
Regarding granting urban residency to people from the countryside who have moved to cities, the Ministry of Finance has improved its balanced transfer payment method, taken the migrating population into account when estimating regional fiscal spending, in order to resolve the discrepancy in public services between the areas that the migrants are leaving and arriving in, which is caused by the floating population. We will follow the principles laid out in the Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening the Reform during the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and the National New Urbanization Plan （2014-2020）， establish a mechanism linking fiscal transfer payments with the urbanized agricultural population, further improve the fiscal transfer payment system, and promote equitable and universal public services including social security, medical treatment, education, culture and so on.
The Ministry of Finance will mainly deal with the following things in terms of securing capital for urbanization: first, it will reinforce the power of local government bonds in promoting urbanization, give more rights to local governments to issue bonds in accordance with the law, improve the current system of local government bonds, and explore a means of local government bond issuing that combines general and special bonds. Second, it will promote the cooperative model of government and social capital, or the PPP model, in which the government, by means of franchise rights, fair pricing, fiscal subsidies and other open and transparent measures, clarifies the benefit-cost mechanism in advance and attracts social capital to participate in the construction of urbanization infrastructure. Third, it will further strengthen the management of local government financing companies, regulate the local government borrowing, sort out the relationship between enterprises and governments, correctly guide market expectations, and prevent and diffuse financial risks.
Xu Xianping: Let me add one thing. As Vice Minister Liu mentioned just now, the government pays for part of the expenses incurred from the transfer of the rural population to urban areas. Apart from that, enterprises and rural migrant workers are also responsible. For instance, enterprises should pay for the rural migrant workers' social security, and invest in their skills training. Rural workers themselves should also pay a part of the costs according to the relevant rules and regulations. Hence, the expense is shared by governments, enterprises and individuals. The governments are responsible for the public cost.
As to what advice the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank gave when we drafted the Plan, they mainly focused on energy conservation and environmental protection, building smart cities, raising the management level of city planning and construction, improving social security and so on. We have studied and adopted the advice.
Hong Kong Takungpao and its affiliated website: I have two questions. The first one is for Vice Minister Wang Shiyuan from the Ministry of Land and Resources. We have noticed that some voices out there have claimed that the new urbanization will initiate a new round of "Enclosure Movement." Between increasing land supply in cities and ensuring farmer's rights, what kind of work will be done to balance out both?
My second question goes to Xu, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission （NDRC）。 Many investors are eager to learn more about the investment opportunities in the new urbanization round, especially for the high-end service sector that Hong Kong companies take pride in. Could you brief us about such opportunities? Thank you.
Wang Shiyuan: First of all, I want to thank you for your concern about land management and the protection of arable land. In the compilation process of urbanization plan, we as a member did participate in the drafting and reviewing. For example, we gathered the data taken from the second national land survey （July 1, 2007 - Dec. 31, 2009） and used it as basic data in the compilation, largely because the drafting work happened to appear at the same time.
Secondly, we have jointly predicted the urbanization scale for 2020, especially the planned objective to have the per-capita construction scale reach 100 square meters.
On a third note, at the same time, we conducted policy research regarding reforms in land management, which would concern the urbanization plan. On this basis, we offered 27 suggestions, gathered from seven different perspectives, to facilitate the policymaking. It is fair to say our work has strongly backed up the new urbanization planning.
The CPC Central Committee recently issued a series of requirements for land management undertakings. As you know, after the Party's Third Plenum, the Central Economic Work Conference, Urbanization Conference and Rural Work Conference all raised new requirements for land management efforts. Following the new requirements, we will focus on the work from three aspects:
First, the protection of arable land will be a foundation and precondition for urbanization. We will continue our strictest regulations in preserving the quality and quantity of arable land.
At present, we are working together with other government agencies to pilot the consolidation of regulations that apply to economic and social development, urban planning and land use, which in turn means that we are modifying the overall land use planning based on the second national land census.
We will connect all related regulations to the urbanization plan, which would work as a foundation for all regulations. The plan marks all boundaries of the ecological resources, farmlands and city areas with red lines. The scale of the new construction lands would be under strictly control. Cities that need more space should expand their urban area in a linear layout with combined conglomeration and form a satellite town. This will ensure the protection of both farmland and the ecosystem.
Our next step is to gradually reduce the planned quota for new construction land. After consulting the NDRC, we will reduce the quota for 2014, with a priority to control the country's eastern areas, especially those new urban spaces in cluster cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebeiarea, the Yangtze Delta and the Pearl River Delta.
As Vice Minister Xu just mentioned, in developing these cities, we will continue to excavate their full potential as there is still much room left for the development of small and medium cities in these areas. At the same time, we will establish and improve the responsibility system for farmland protection without neglecting the balance between both the use and retrieval of farmland.
Through the abovementioned efforts, there will be positive results in protecting arable land, both in terms of quality and quantity. Following then, we must view land conservation and the intensive use of land as a key and critical task in driving forward urbanization development. We will always abide by the strictest regulations in land conservation to further raise the efficiency of land use in urban construction.
By following the central government's demands, in controlling the increase in land supply, making the most of the present stock of land, optimizing the land structure and raising the land use efficiency, we will innovate land management system.
In checking the inventory of land, the key lies in the redevelopment of "low efficiency land" in rural towns and villages to improve the intensity of land use. We should refine the standards for various types of land. We shall establish an incentive and encouraging mechanism for non-arable lands to exit, including the land allocated to urban area, the land destined for industry development, rural homesteads and other construction purposes.
We will also standardize land remediation to improve the efficiency of rural land use. Based on land conservation and the intensive use of land, we will promote urbanization which in turn improves the attraction of rural townships to both workforce and industries.
Third, we should regard the preservation of farmers' lawful rights as our fundamental purpose in developing people-oriented urbanization. We should prudently advance the reform of the rural land system while deepening the reform in the urban land system.
The Ministry of Land and Resources is joining hands with other government organs in setting an overall agenda for reform and pilot proposals This would include how to deepen the reform of state-owned land and how to expand its different uses.
For the land with collective ownership in rural parts,, we should adhere to such ownership and the protection red lines of the arable land and stick up to the rights and interests of farmers. Under the precondition of legitimacy in city planning and land use regulations, we will allow commercial land with collective ownership to enter the land market. Apart from that, we will release reform measures for land requisition and the use of land for homesteads.
Now that we have outlined these reforms and measures, I think that as long as we can strictly implement them, we can ensure reasonable land use in new urbanization development while at the same time safeguard the country's food security and farmers' rights and interests.
Xu Xianping: Please allow me to answer your second question. The service sector is closely related to urbanization. As cities and towns are gathering growth in both their economy and population, there will be a rising demand for production services -- such as financing, scientific development and intermediary services -- as well as life-related services, including medical service, healthcare and senior care.
Last year, the service sector accounted for 46.1 percent of China's overall economy. But in developed countries, this proportion is usually higher than 70 percent. This gap means there is still much room for the development of the service sector in China.
In boosting new urbanization, Hong Kong companies are welcomed to participate in the development of the service sector on the mainland. We will continue to open up this sector to international investors. Thank you.
China News Service （CNS）： I would like to ask Vice Minister Qi some questions about housing in the process of urbanization. Will the high housing prices found in the big cities become an obstacle for urbanization? How can we ensure that rural migrant workers can afford housing in the cities? Do we have different measures for different types of cities?
Qi Ji: Your questions concern housing problems during the process of implementing the new urbanization plan. Minister Yang has just elaborated on the issue of how to help migrant workers work to their satisfaction, and talked about his understanding of the plan. We often say, "When one lives well, then one can truly settle down and enjoy his job." Therefore we need to ensure that the new urban residents and rural migrant workers can truly find a place to live in the urban areas. I'd like to call your attention to two points in the National Plan which discuss housing for rural migrant workers.
The first one is to ensure the full coverage of basic housing for rural migrant workers. In other words, all migrant families eligible for the housing guarantee system in the cities they move in will be covered by the system. There will be various categories of assurance available. The second thing I believe you may also be interested in, is to gradually realize the universal coverage of basic public services for the permanent population in urban areas. It means that those who work permanently in cities, with or without a city hukou, will all be entitled to enjoy basic public services. Of course, the basic public services include a guarantee for affordable housing. These are two new policies in regards to the housing of urban residents and the permanent urban population.
You also mentioned the question of housing affordability for farmers in big cities and cities with relatively higher housing prices. Actually there are two types of migrant farmers. Your question doesn't concern those who have already amassed their fortunes. The focus of our government will be on those migrant workers who have worked in cities for quite a period of time, but without a stable home. Their housing needs should be met and guaranteed by the government.
For rural migrant workers, the housing prices in many big cities form a setback they cannot overcome. Therefore, the National Plan on New Urbanization has dedicated an entire chapter to this. Chapter 26, entitled "Improve the Urban Housing System," gives the market a decisive role in resource allocation and gives better play to the role of the government in helping to realize the general aggregate balance. To this end, we propose several principles. The first is a general aggregate balance, referring to the balance of supply and demand.
The second is an appropriate structure of housing supply. This means there will be supplies of both commercial and indemnificatory housing. And for those who neither meet the requirements for indemnificatory housing, nor can they afford commercial housing, we propose developing a type of housing with shared property rights. In this plan, the government and the house buyer share the ownership of the house during a given period of time. This will help solve the housing concerns of China's so-called "sandwich class."
The third is to make sure housing prices match spending power. On the whole, we want to ensure an even market. But this may differ greatly from area to area.
For rural migrant workers who cannot afford commercial housing, if they are qualified, they can apply for indemnificatory housing; if they do not qualify for indemnificatory housing, the new model of commercial housing with shared ownership will become a choice for many of them. This policy covers not only rural migrant workers, but also new urban residents moving into the big cities from other places.
Financial Times: My question is in regards to the Qingdao Sinopec explosions. One reason cited for the accident was urbanization. As the city expands, nobody knows what kind of pipelines or equipment has been placed underneath its surface. In your planning, how will you deal with such issues? Because I am guessing that there are such problems in other cities besides Qingdao. I don't know which government department can give the answer.
Qi Ji: I'm not in charge of such projects and therefore may not be able to give you a very professional answer. As you already mentioned the Qingdao incident, I will discuss some of my opinions on the matter. I can say that many cities in China are developed and formed gradually, which means some of their infrastructure was initially built in the suburban areas of the city, such as sewage treatment plants or garbage landfills. However, as the city expands, plants and equipment, designed to remain outside the city, are now encircled by the newly expanding city areas and hence become part of the city's inner infrastructure.
Plus, there are a number of so-called "villages within a city," none of them deliberately built "inside" the city. They are just villages that were originally created outside the city and have gradually been surrounded by new city expansions -- hence becoming part of the inner city.
You also mentioned one heavy petrochemical enterprise just now. I actually have been there. The city just developed into a big one over the past decade. At first, the enterprise was indeed located on the outskirts of the city. During that particular process of a city's layout construction, it is a fact that some of these "outside" projects, including infrastructures and industry plants, have evolved into these city centers . Frankly speaking, they are not fit to be situated in the central area of a city, but this is just a matter of evolving progress -- and we do actually see such a development process taking place.
This time around, in the planning for the new type of cities and towns, we specifically propose a four-line control, including a green, blue, purple and yellow line. The green line stands for a green belt, the blue line ensures a water resource, the purple line signifies cultural relics protection and the yellow line controls infrastructure. Various infrastructures which belong to the yellow line control, including the petrochemical pipelines you mentioned, shall be strictly separated from a city's residential areas and administration areas. In the new plans, we must summarize the lessons we have learned, especially for those colleagues who will participate in city construction. They will know that no matter whether they see a yellow, green, blue, purple or the currently existing red line, these from the limitations that no city construction should go beyond.
Yang Zhiming: I want to add some words to the question regarding the home services industry. The Hong Kong reporter asked a good question. As Vice Minister Xu already said, the new type of urbanization is closely related to the expanding service industry and migrant workers are also closely related to the developing service industry. Nowadays, migrant workers are providing the city with an essential public service. For now, it remains very hard to find technicians in a city's production service and it is also hard to find home service workers.
According to statistics, there are some 20 million migrant workers living in China's cities. And there is still much room for home services, nursing home services, patient care services and community care services to grow. That is, after training the migrant workers, they would have to be willing to engage in these service industries and the families actually looking to hire, would have to be willing to employ them. This way, migrant workers will expand the home service industry in the new type of urbanization, will help raise employment rates, improve people's daily lives and promote domestic needs, as well as adjust the existing economic structures.
Guo Weimin: The Ministry of Construction （Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development） may establish one department solely responsible for city planning. If you are interested in the future, we will invite the relevant leaders and experts of the Ministry's City Planning Department to hold a press conference and briefing.
China Business News: I attended a meeting at Peking University interpreting the reports released during the annual sessions of the NPC & CPPCC, in which a scholar raised the idea that the core of urbanization was creating more jobs, and that the process of urbanization is the process of better meeting the needs of the new labor force. What is your understanding of this, Vice Minister Xu, and how is employment going to meet the people's needs?
Xu Xianping: I will leave questions on employment to Vice Minister Yang Zhiming.
Yang Zhiming: China is a country with rich labor resources and it is a major country for agricultural labor transfer. It is also a large country of rural migrant workers with Chinese characteristics. Under the guidance of the new urbanization plan, we will focus on guiding rural migrant workers to seek outside employment in an orderly manner, encouraging them to seek employment in nearby areas, and supporting them in returning to their hometowns to establish their own businesses. At present, the total number of rural migrant workers heading to cities for employment and business is growing, but the growth rate is declining and the places they choose is changing, which means that the number of rural migrant workers will become limited. From now on, rural migrant workers may have difficulty finding employment, while some big cities and enterprises may have a lack of rural migrant workers. The lack of general workers is due to the limited rural labor force, while the lack of skilled workers demonstrates a lack of skilled rural migrant workers. The difficulties faced by both rural migrant workers and enterprises are caused by the market.
When we carry out the new urbanization plan, we should, first of all, enhance skills training for rural migrant workers to address the lack of skilled workers. Second, we should develop tertiary industry, small and medium-sized enterprises and labor-intensive industries, to resolve the ever-growing demands of rural migrant workers. Third, we should support rural migrant workers with resources to return to their hometowns to start businesses. We call those who come back to China to establish their businesses after studying abroad "overseas returnees." Similarly, we may also call these people "city returnees," who obtain skills, amass capital, know the basics about marketing, have the guts to establish their own businesses and harbor an emotional affiliation to the countryside and then come back to their hometowns after living in the city. Fourth, we should develop the role of the nationwide employment information network to handle information sharing in cross-region employment for rural migrant workers. Overall, the transfer of the rural labor force with Chinese characteristics is employment-driven, preserves ownership of land, and is settling down step by step. We will further carry out our work concerning employment and entrepreneurship for rural migrant workers in the process of promoting the new urbanization in China. Thank you.
Xu Xianping: Let me add one thing. The process of urbanization entails non-agricultural industries and the rural population moving to cities and towns, along with the development of industrialization. I will demonstrate this with two figures. China grew into the second largest economy in the world, with close to double-digit growth for the past thirty strong years since reform and opening up. What was the urbanization rate in 1978？17.9 percent. How many people lived in the urban areas back then? 170 million. Now that number has grown to 730 million. We can see that when we grow our economy, we also create more jobs and concentrate the population.
Beijing Times: I have another question concerning the issue of household registration. The Plan states that the population of megacities with more than five million residents should be strictly controlled. Does that mean those migrant workers who have left their hometown and earn a living in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou will not have a chance to have their hukou in those cities?
Huang Ming: That's a question that a lot of people are concerned about. I would suggest not using the expression "there's no chance". I would like to answer your question by making three points.
First, the need to strictly control the population of megacities with more than five million residents is determined by Chinese national conditions. China has a large population and the development of different areas is unbalanced. The megacities have big advantages and have attracted large migrant populations. Take Beijing as an example, from 2000 to 2012, the migrant population of the city increased by 5.17 million, about 430 thousand every year. During the same period, the migrant population of Shanghai increased 530 thousand every year, that of Guangzhou 430 thousand and that of Shenzhen 560 thousand. Therefore, the burdens of cities that suffer from resource shortages and environment deterioration need to be alleviated. Our household registration policy is in accordance with the Plan, which means the population of those cities should be under strict control and we will adhere to tight control.
Second, we have noticed that this year's local Two Sessions sent out an important signal about megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai: cities should define their functions in a scientific way, appropriately divert some functions to other places, and speed up industrial transformation and upgrading by transferring labor-intensive industries and optimizing the population structure. Therefore, strict control of the population is not only a part of the household registration policy. It is a result of comprehensive consideration and accompanied by many other measures, including guiding the population to move from the cities, to form a more rational urban population structure and facilitate the economic growth and social development of cities.
Third, megacities should strictly control their populations as well as reform and improve the current household registration system. We should help rural residents become urban citizens in an open, fair and orderly manner, using the points system to grant them access to urban social services step by step, and therefore properly control and adjust the scale and pace of the urban population expansion. Why am I against using the expression "no chance?" In my opinion, there are still chances. However, the chances （of becoming residents of megacities） will not be as big as those in other big cities, and medium and small cities in particular. If you want to realize your "urban dream" quickly, it is more realistic to move to the medium and small cities. If you choose the megacities, apart from earning credits, you should keep a positive attitude and be patient.
Xu Xianping: I agree with Vice Minister Huang. Cities with less than five million residents include provincial capitals, prefecture-level cities and county seats. Please notice that the Plan clearly states that cities and towns should draft and publish the specific criteria for rural residents to become urban citizens according to their own conditions, guiding the anticipation and selection of those who want to become urban residents.
Yang Zhiming: I'd like to add one thing. Migrant workers can earn their points by acquiring skills and participating in social insurance.
Guo Weimin: They may attend training. When the plan （for the household registration system） is released, we may have another press conference.
Huang Ming: We'll give detailed explanations on the reform of the household registration system after the approval from the CPC Central Committee and the State Council.
Xinhua News Agency: I have two questions. First, in this year's government work report, it stated we need to propel the new urbanization plan that puts human first and addresses three major tasks, each involving 10 million people. I would like to know how these tasks will be carried out. Second, what is the difference between the urbanization in the West and in the East? What are the focal issues?
Xu Xianping: Let me take your questions. This issue was much discussed at the two sessions. The first task, involving 100 million people, is to allow 100 million rural residents to settle down in the urban areas by 2020, according to the plans. The new generation of migrant workers, born in the 1980s and 1990s, has topped 100 million; more than 50 million migrant workers have resided in the city for at least five years and some 55 million migrant workers have moved into the cities together with their families. By 2020, the number of migrant workers and their relatives who reside in the urban area will amount to some 300 million. The first task at hand, involving 100 million people, is the first one to be completed and this figure occupies one third of the total. This is a very doable and necessary task.
As Vice Minister Huang Ming has just said, the urbanization rate of registered households will by that time be raised to some 45 percent from the current 36 percent. It will help unlock potential domestic demand, help resolve the issues regarding the countryside, agriculture and farmers, as well as help maintain social stability.
The second task, involving another 100 million people, is to improve the living conditions of about 100 million people through the renovation of shanty towns and villages in city.
Qi Ji: I would like to add something. Vice Minister Xu just spoke about the issue of the household registration of 100 million people in rural areas. The second task involving another 100 million people basically indicates that a lot of urban residents still live in shanty towns and villages in city. The premier has said in this year's government work report that we cannot allow high-rise buildings to stand on one side with a shantytown located right on the other side. There are still a few shanty towns left in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and even more in the country's central and western regions. As a result, the report outlined the task to move some 100 million people out of these shanty towns.
I would like to brief you on some of these tasks. Since the implementation of the 12th Five-Year Plan, the affordable housing project has been launched -- maybe you have noticed this. We aim to build 360 million units of affordable housing over the next five years, more than 40 percent of which are situated in shanty towns. More than 240 million units were under construction by the end of 2013, and for the remaining two years, 6 million more will be completed each year.
The government put forward the task of renovating more than 10 million shantytown homes between 2013 and 2017. In 2013, the first year of the new government's administration, we actually already renovated 3.23 million homes. This year, we set the target at more than 4.7 million. You can do the math yourself. Adding up both years, we have updated roughly 8 million of these neighborhoods. This government still has three more years to go. According to the arrangements made by local governments, we can increase this number from 10 to 15 million, which is a goal this government can achieve. This mega shantytown renovation project started off in 2008.
The year of 2012 was a milestone year, and 2017 will be yet another milestone year. By the end of 2012, the renovation of 12.6 million shantytown homes had been completed and this figure is set to reach some 27.6 million if this government can attain its aim of 15 million. We plan to complete this large-scale shantytown renovation by the end of this government administration, by 2017 that is. Moreover, for those remaining shanty towns and so-called "inner-city villages," there are as of yet no detailed plans in place, but a general plan does exist. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, we can at least renovate more than 10 million shantytown and "inner city village" homes. Counting the 10 million, together with the 12.6 million already completed and the 15 million to be completed by 2017, we can come to a total of 37.6 million. If we can move 37.6 million households out of shanty towns and into modern residences, can we then complete the task of moving 10 million people out of t shanty towns and "inner-city villages"?
Xu Xianping: Vice Minister Qi provided a great response to the questions. The plan will take the renovation of shanty towns and "inner-city villages" as a long-term endeavor and formulate a special action plan with a step-by-step implementation.
The third task involving 100 million people, meaning 100 million people in China's central and western regions, will be guided to obtain residency in nearby cities. In 2012, the urbanization rate in the eastern region was 62.2 percent, and in the western region was 44.8 percent, with a 10-plus percentage gap between them. As the Strategy of China's Western Development and the plans for the rejuvenation of central China have taken root, the conditions for development in the central and western regions have improved remarkably. The areas have geared up their industrial transfer projects, increased their abilities to support labor market and left more room for urbanization. In key areas for development in central and western regions, set aside by the plan as main functional zones, we will foster the development of new city clusters and enable them to grant some 100 million farmers full citizenship in the localities. In doing so, it will be of great significance to the progress of regional coordinated development, the maintenance of ethnical unity and the safeguarding of sovereignty safety.
As for the development issue of the central and western regions you mentioned, please note one passage in the plan. Since the central region is the main food-production area, the western region is a water conservation and key ecological functional area, the job of propelling urbanization in those regions should eliminate the existing extensive and low-efficient pattern and focus on farmland conservation, water conservation and pollutant emission control along a green, low-carbon and eco-friendly urbanization path. The dreafting of the plan has taken the issue into consideration,so the task of fostering city clusters in key development zones, planned by main functional zones, is defined according to the capacity of their resources and environment. Thank you.
Yang Zhiming: The rapid increase in the number of migrant workers in central and western China has become a new trend. I will give you some statistics. Last year, the number of migrant workers in the east decreased by 0.2 percent, but increased by 9.4 percent in central China and 3.3 percent in western China. In other words, the eastern region witnessed very slow growth, and some years even negative growth, while the central and western regions witnessed rapid growth. Although wages in the central and western regions were 10 percent less than those in the eastern region, their appeal to workers stemmed more from the proximity of a working place, low living costs and convenience for taking care of the family. This is partly facilitating the reasonable labor flow between eastern, central and western regions, as well as improving the labor conditions and care for migrant workers. Just now, Vice Minister Xu spoke about the new generation of migrant workers, born in the 1980s and 1990s. They are currently in their twenties and thirties, young, educated and energetic, and can breathe life into to the new urbanization plan.
People's Daily: I would like to ask a question specifically meant for Vice Minister Qi. One of the goals mentioned in the National Plan on New Urbanization is to establish a national network of personal housing information. I would like to know the progress of this work? What have been the major difficulties so far?
Qi Ji: The establishment of a system of personal housing information in urban areas is something which concerns the whole society. I would like you to know that the initiative was put forward in a document issued by the General Office of the State Council in 2011 to regulate the housing market, and it was intended to help regulatory work become more targeted. In providing a clear picture of housing construction, sales and inventory, the system will enable policy makers to adopt more targeted measures.
In line with the work arrangements by the State Council, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development ordered a first batch of 40 major cities to complete the setup of their own digital personal housing information systems by the end of 2012, and then have these systems connected to the national network operated by the ministry itself. This is a very concrete task. We held meetings to further discuss the plans and urged local governments to proceed. By mid-2013, we had basically connected the local systems of all the 40 major cities on the housing market monitoring list to the national network. People give different versions on what's going on with the current work and I'm here to tell you the actual situation.
As the 40 cities proceeded, as arranged by the State Council, with the construction of their local systems, the State Council issued a circular in 2013 to strengthen housing market regulations. The circular set the goal to have all personal information housing systems of cities with subordinate districts connected to the national network by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan.
The housing information systems, including those of the 40 cities and those under construction in other cities with subordinate districts, mainly collect such housing information of individuals as "who bought which apartment, when and where." Information on new transactions will automatically enter the systems. However, the systems are not complete because the information on housing purchases made prior to the existence of the systems remains absent. These purchases were accomplished by property developers and buyers signing paper contracts. The contracts were then sent to the relevant government department for registration. We have urged all cities to accelerate the input of information regarding these purchases into the digital systems, which is a lot of work. As far as I know, some cities have recruited college students to do the work during their summer and winter breaks. The work has thus far been completed in many cities, but it is yet to be commenced elsewhere because other cities with subordinate districts and many county-level cities are still in the process of establishing their information systems.
I also want to note that the housing information listed in the systems is individual-based instead of household-based. The systems haven't been connected to the household registration system of the Ministry of Public Security. It will take time to connect them. The National Plan on New Urbanization also mentioned the unified registration of real estate on the basis of land registration. It is a job which involves housing registration and thus is part of the establishment of housing information systems. We are cooperating with the Ministry of Land and Resources to speed up the work.
People have for long had inaccurate information on the matter and we have failed to keep you informed in a timely manner. So I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify things.
Guo Weimin: This is the end of today's press conference. Thank you, ministers, reporters and both simultaneous interpreters.
This transcript was translated by Chen Boyuan, Chen Xia, Wu Jin, Zhang Lulu, Li Huiru, Zhang Rui, Huang Shan, He Shan and Yuan Fang; edited by Chris Parker, Elsbeth van Paridon, Chen Qiuping, Wang Qian, Wang Zhiyong, Li Xiaohua, He Shan, Yuan Fang and Huang Shan.