A steady stream of rural workers coming into urban areas has fueled China’s rapid economic rise. Yet, these migrants remain constrained in their upward social mobility by the household registration system – hukou – that assigns an individual residency status as either “rural” or “urban” and is very hard to change. As a result, some 260 million migrants – or about 20 percent of the country’s population – live as second-class citizens in their adopted cities. In the biggest cities, as much as 40 percent of the population does not have the city hukou.
In the 1950s, the Communist Party started using the ages-old hukou family tracking system to restrict population movement. The intent was to spur industrialization through the “iron rice bowl” deal: urban workers were compensated for low wages by the promise of lifetime employment, health care, pension, and education for their children. For the system to work, rural workers had to be kept on farms to supply cities with cheap food.
Many now recognize hukou as unjust and an obstacle to China’s further development, and the government is contemplating reform. For the time being migrant workers still lack the status of permanent urban residents and the access to public services that city residents enjoy. This, in turn, makes just paying rent a struggle and creates high demand for affordable housing.
Enterprising farmers on the outskirts of fast-growing cities took notice. They started renting or selling their houses to migrants and building new ones. In some cases the entire villages invested in such developments – which include not just housing but also small factories, shops, and hotels. The owners received certificates of “ownership” (actually a limited land use right that can’t be sold, inherited, or mortgaged) recognized by their rural collectives. But when cities expand, these so-called “small titles” have no outside legal standing. The owners are supposed to be fairly compensated for expropriation but that rarely happens given the incentive structure: city governments have a monopoly on buying rural land and converting it into urban land by reselling to commercial property developers at a considerable financial gain.
The central and city governments maintain that construction and sale of “small title” properties are illegal. Yet for decades they were tolerated or even encouraged by local governments to facilitate their land take as “sideline payments” or accommodate migrant workers or lower-income city residents. Once urban land prices exploded, and following the 1994 fiscal reform that centralized fiscal revenue and put more pressure to raise revenue on local governments, the incentives changed. Not surprisingly, though, the central government’s efforts to remove “small title” properties and re-develop the land are encountering strong local resistance. In fact, conflict over land accounts for 65 percent of the more than 180,000 mass protests occurring in China annually.
President Benigno Aquino III with “Team PNoy” candidates (Photo: Yahoo)
The recent mid-term elections in the Philippines brought both change and continuity. At stake were 12 of the 24 senate seats, 229 district seats in the House of Representatives, and more than 18,000 local posts, including mayors and governors. President Benigno S. Aquino III and his political allies, Team PNoy, gained important wins, notably in the Senate. This augurs well for the advancement of the President’s anti-corruption and economic growth program of the “straight path” or “tuwid na daan.” Many credit these policies for the March upgrade of the country’s sovereign borrower rating to an investment grade by Fitch for the first time in history. But is the top-level commitment to make government more effective through good governance and economic reforms enough to affect change on the ground? The peculiar kind of continuity in Philippine politics poses that question.
The election results indicate that, as in the past, the biggest winners were the political dynasties and their often questionable tactics involving “guns, goons, gold, and glitter” to mobilize voters. There were, however, some significant upsets by candidates who ran on a good governance platform and won against entrenched political dynasties. Leni Robredo’s win of the congressional seat in Naga City ended the 35 year reign of the Villafuertes family, and Rolen Paulino’s mayoral win against Anne Marie Gordon in Olongapo City ended the quarter-century rule of the Gordon family. But many other dynasties still continue to dominate.
Just 29% of Shanghai’s college graduates had jobs on graduation.(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
This week marks another anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which were brutally suppressed by the Chinese government. Not surprisingly there isn’t much talk on the subject in China, where search terms such as “June 4,″ “Tiananmen,” or even “uprising” censored on China’s Twitter equivalent, Sina Weibo. One factor contributing to the atmosphere of forced silence is the fact that about 500 million of China’s billion-plus population is under 25 years of age, i.e. born after 1989. Most of them simply don’t know what happened and are preoccupied with more immediate concerns such as finding a job, which is becoming harder and harder for young college graduates.
What is Asian development going to look like in the near future? Given that China remains the region’s leading giant, and one of its fastest-growing economies, the challenges for the new Chinese leadership have became the focal point of recent discussions on this topic.
Dr. Pakdee Pothisiri, Commissioner of Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission, at an IOD event in Bangkok. (Photo: CIPE)
Corruption is one of the world’s most pervasive and vexing problems, costing the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year and stalling economic growth in many developing countries. Though most anti-corruption efforts focus on government-driven solutions in Thailand, the private sector, with CIPE’s assistance, has taken the lead in stamping out corrupt practices.
Writing in the Bangkok Post, CIPE Program Officer John Morrell describes how this unique program took shape, and why private companies have taken such an interest in what is usually regarded as a problem for the government.
Participants at the January IOD training included senior officers from some of the largest local and multinational companies in Thailand.
In late January, more than 30 senior officers from 17 major Thai and multinational corporations attended an intensive anti-corruption training program led by the Thai Institute of Directors (IOD). This pilot two-day training course is the latest groundbreaking step in the Collective Action against Corruption campaign, now in its third year, being led by CIPE and IOD.
With technical and financial assistance from CIPE, IOD has assembled a still-expanding coalition of companies and business associations committed to fighting corruption in Thailand. To join this coalition, a company signs IOD’s Collective Action against Corruption Declaration which lays out tangible and specific steps that a company must take to proactively reduce corruption-related risks on the part of its employees, managers, and vendors. But signing this document is no mere photo-op, because to remain a member of this coalition, a company must submit to an external evaluation to verify whether or not it is actually doing what it has promised to do.
What could be the most adequate real-life example of the fictional, fantastical Pixar movie “Up?” — China’s land–use rights saga! In “Up,” Mr. Frederickson’s entire life and all his cherished memories are threatened when real estate developers want to usurp his home and his land. Through constant harassment, the developers finally force Mr. Frederickson to give up everything he owns – or so they think. To everyone’s surprise, Mr. Frederickson uses thousands of helium balloons to carry his home to the mystical place of his childhood dream: Paradise Falls. In reality, the battle between Mr. Frederickson and the real estate developers reflects the heartaches of many Chinese rural villagers, and unfortunately, the Chinese villagers cannot fly their homes to Paradise Falls.
When I learned about China’s land-use rights system — that all land is owned by the government, and the citizens receive “rights” to use the land — I felt even more fortunate to live in a free country where people are entitled to own private land and personal properties. In recent years, land-use rights in China have been put to the test as corruption among the local government and real estate developers worsens. China’s rapid urbanization and the local governments’ need for additional revenue created a ferocious phenomenon of illegal land seizures. Farmers suffer from losing their land-use rights, and the compensation from the local government often barely makes up the loss.