Urbanization and rural livelihoods: A case study from Jiangxi Province, China

Authors: Qing Tian, George Mason University, Liying Guo*, , Lin Zheng, Jiangxi Normal University
Topics: China
Keywords: Rural livelihoods, Urbanization, Urban-rural connections, Policy and institutions, China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8217, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The livelihoods of Chinese rural households are undergoing a transformation amid urbanization. While participation in the urban economy has improved rural living standards, rural income has consistently lagged behind urban income, and a broader prosperity gap persists between urban and rural areas. How to increase rural income and reduce the rural-urban gap remains a major challenge for the Chinese government. This study examines rural livelihoods within the broader development context of China, paying particular attention to the interconnection between agricultural and industrial development. We further elaborate Arthur Lewis's insight about Unlimited Supply of Labor to illustrate the various social, economic, and institutional components that affect the two-sector development dynamics in the Chinese urbanization context. Through an in-depth case study of eight villages in Jiangxi Province, we analyze the complex processes that shape the livelihoods of rural households, which also provides the micro-socioeconomic foundations for the macro-level development dynamics. Our qualitative interviews and field observations enable us to develop a deeper understanding of the decision-making of rural households and the multifaceted constraints confronting them in developing viable livelihoods. We reflect from a systems perspective on how development, migration, and land policies may synergistically foster healthy rural-urban development dynamics. And this will help lift system-level constraints and facilitate rural households with different characteristics, situated in different local environmental settings, building robust livelihoods via different paths.

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