Li Keqiang, set to become China’s premier in March, asked the World Bank to help undertake a study on urbanization to help deal with the migration of more than a fifth of its population from the countryside.
“He asked us to get engaged in the study quickly and he wants the study to help form his own strategic approach to urbanization,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said at a press briefing in Beijing today at the end of his first official visit to China since becoming head of the Washington-based lender in July.
Urbanization is a “huge engine” for growth in China, Li wrote in a full-page article on economic development in the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily last week. As many as 300 million people will move from the countryside by 2030, to join 600 million already living in cities, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates.
“There’s no question that the premier and the new regime wants to surge forward in a strategic, evidence-based way,” Kim said. “This is why we are going to tackle this massive study and do it very quickly.”
In a statement before the briefing, Kim said, “While research shows urbanization drives growth and raises living standards, it brings tremendous challenges to the environment, food security as well as the delivery of health care and education services.”
The World Bank will conduct the urbanization study with the Development Research Center of China’s State Council, Kim said. In February the World Bank published a report entitled “China 2030,” written with the center. Li gave the “China 2030” project his “unwavering commitment,” then-World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in February.
The report was conceived to help China avoid the so-called middle-income trap that often stalls the productivity and income growth of countries when their per-capita incomes reach $3,000 to $6,000, Zoellick said in September 2011.
Li “made it clear to us that we would have to tackle the full range of issues that will arise in dealing with the massive influx of some 14 million people a year into Chinese cities,” Kim said. “He sees a strategic approach to urbanization as one of the keys to the future growth of China.”