For the first time in four decades, China’s two megacities, Beijing and Shanghai, have experienced a drop in their populations. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Beijing’s population fell by 22,000 to 21.7 million in 2018, whereas that of Shanghai decreased by 13,700 to 24.18 million. A recent study argues these results indicate China’s population is becoming more evenly spread out. Released in December 2018, a report by the Beijing Population Research Institute and Social Sciences Academic Press has found an increased intendency of citizens living in China’s megacities, Beijing and Shanghai, to relocate to other cities including Chengdu and Xi’an.
If this is indeed the case, such a geographic redistribution could help achieve a more balanced sustainable development throughout China as most industries and people are concentrated in the East of the country. As Shanghai and Beijing are both critical business hubs, in recent decades they had become a magnet for Chinese migrants from across the country who are keen to explore the economic promises of the cities. However, this phenomenon has also resulted in so-called “big city diseases” due to their enormous population such as overcrowding, urban sprawl, high traffic (thereby causing high air population) and increased stress on the local natural resources. The Global Times reports that the increased living costs such as rent have encouraged citizens to shift from the two major metropolises to other cities. That being said, Beijing and Shanghai both also adopted population limits respectively for 23 million by 2020 and 25 million by 2035. The cities were also accused of trying to drive out low-income migrant workers to achieve their population targets. The Guardian reports China’s government “has said it is not specifically targeting migrant workers, critics claim the reforms disproportionately affect the cities’ poorest”.