The Hukou System–Marketization, Migration And Citizenship In Post-Socialist China
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When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) achieved power in 1949, it became concerned with differentiating residential groups as a means to orchestrate state developmental priorities and to a lesser extent control population movement. In pursuit of its industrialization and developmental goals, the CCP created a rigid and impermeable barrier to rural-urban migration: the hukou or household registration system. Over the course of the last decade, China has been gradually relaxing the hukou restrictions, allowing for increased movement. In 2015, the China’s State Council announced that it would grant urban hukou’s to 100 million permanent urban residents by 2020, as part of its ‘orderly’ hukou reform. Additionally, hukou administration has become increasingly decentralized and the agricultural/nonagricultural distinction in cities is being eliminated in many cities. It remains vital to the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to maintain control and remain in power in the single-party state. The hukou system has been so successful that it’s created a spatial hierarchy, a dualsociety, split between urban and rural hukou holders. Rural hukou holders are disadvantaged by unequal access to quality education and healthcare, as well as relegated to a separate class of citizenship by their disparate rights and duties. The goods and services provided by the government to urban hukou holders are superior and rural hukou holders are unable to move to cities to access them. My paper discusses the inequality of opportunity experienced by rural hukou holders and concludes that the reforms that have been underway since the early 2000’s do not go far enough to reduce inequality. Instead, the reforms are intended to promote urbanization as part of China’s effort to shift from an industrial to a service and consumer-based economy. To this end, some new urban hukou’s are being issued by cities but not enough to make a significant impact. My paper concludes with several recommendations for further reforms to the hukou system that would help ameliorate the inequality of opportunity.