7 Billion Humans | National Geographic Magazine: Mass Migration

The largest urbanization in human history is from the Chinese countryside to the cities. It is predicted that 4.9 billion or 60 percent of humans worldwide will live in cities by 2030.

Huaxi Village (Farmer’s Village) is emblematic of the beginning of the massive urbanization of China and of the largest human migration in history from the rural areas of China into the cities. When I first visited China during the Tiananmen Square uprising it was difficult for people born in one city to move to another. If your identity papers said you belonged to Xian you had to stay in Xian even though you might want to move to one of Deng’s economic zones like Guangzhou to a have a higher paying job. We ran the checkpoints where they examined your identity papers during this time because the police did not have guns or radios. I remember police jumping up and down on their little daises in the middle of the road—literally hopping mad—but there was nothing they could do but be angry as we sped away. Not that many nationals had cars during that time, so they could stop them and check their identity papers and turn them away from a better life. When those checkpoints went away and there was free movement in China, 1.3 billion people finally had a chance to follow their dreams and moved to the cities. The Chinese mass migration into cities is a large part of why we are now an urban species. Fifty one percent of us live in urban areas throughout the world.

In Huaxi Village they didn’t have to migrate, they changed their model rural farm into a modern industrial city. They started factories, but initially worked in them secretly (no windows). When government officials came around, all the workers ran out into the fields and pretended to be peasants. They became the first and most successful capitalist exploitation of the collective. There have been 30,000 official government visits to this place to see how it is run every year. There are not many model farms left in China, and none with this wealth. This model farm runs about 80 factories, including garment factories and steel mills. Huaxi Village is touted by the current government as the most successful transition from farm to modern industrial city.

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