Dispatches from China

Milwaukee would be a Podunk burg in booming China

As the news media reports on the riots in Xinjiang, the forces which have been changing China’s traditional rural agricultural society into an urban production machine grind on.

In Xinjiang, 607 million people, 45.7 percent of the Chinese population, now lives in urban areas, an increase of 147 million since 2000. In contrast, 25 years ago 80 percent of the population lived in the countryside.

At a time when we in the United States have clocked our first trillion dollar deficit, it is easy to lose the significance of large numbers. Think of it this way: a group of people larger than the entire population of the U.S. moved from farms to factories in the space of 25 years.

It gives you an idea why the construction crane has become the unofficial bird of most Chinese cities and where China’s manufacturing muscle came from. The movement is not finished. Over the next five years, it is expected that another 150 million people will make the transition to urban areas.

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