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10 1 Internal Migration in Reform China I n controlling both internal and international migration, the Chinese Communist Party copied the Soviet model. By the time the People’s Republic of China was established, that model, entailing extreme restrictions on both foreign and domestic mobility, was well entrenched. Ordinary citizens were only allowed to travel abroad as a political reward in the form of strictly supervised group tourism. Emigration was regarded as treachery from the very outset of Soviet power and, beginning in the 1930s, was allowed only on an ethnic basis, as “repatriation” for a limited number of Jews, Germans, Greeks, Persians, and others. Even in these cases, liberalizations were short-lived and were used as bargaining chips in international politics. Internally, the Soviet regime suppressed and controlled migration through the household registration (propiska) system. In principle, the system allowed for the planning of industrial and agricultural labor as Internal Migration in Reform China 11 well as for the provision of goods and services. It also served to control the population and maintain surveillance of it. To reside other than where one was registered was illegal and deprived a person of access to work, education, and health care. To obtain propiska in a desirable location such as Moscow, one generally had to be admitted to an educational institution, be dispatched by the state to a highly skilled job, or marry somebody living there.1 The lack of mobility among the rural population was sealed by not issuing peasants internal passports, which were necessary to move about the country. This immobility effectively meant a return to serfdom until the travel ban was lifted after Stalin’s death. This suppression of individual and spontaneous migration was complemented by massive voluntary and involuntary migrations, including the use of deportation, banishment, and labor camps, organized by the Soviet government to suit political and economic aims (see, e.g., Polian 2001). Most Eastern European state socialist regimes did not implement a similar system of total control over external and internal movement for any significant period of time, but China did, introducing the household registration system (known as the hukou system) in 1951, and fully implementing it by 1958 (Chan 1996:135–36). The following section provides an overview of the effects of the hukou system on migration control, relying mainly on Chinese sources published since 1978.2 The Hukou System The new rules divided the population into agricultural (nongye) and nonagricultural, expelling peasants from cities (560,000 from Shanghai alone in 1958). Like rural propiska in the Soviet Union, the hukou was designed to keep the population in place by restricting access to food rations, education, health care, and old-age pensions (most of the benefits being reserved for urban residents). In addition to the hukou, the marriage and birth control system also functioned to keep the population in place. While food rationing was the most important instrument in keeping the population fixed before 1978, education, health care, and access to housing and employment became the main impediments during the reform period. Although no longer inaccessible without a hukou, they became—and remained—much more costly.3 Soon after the hukou system was implemented, explicit rules were set up requiring individuals to obtain clearance from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) before changing residences. In 1964, the “Draft rules of managing household registration transfer” approved by the State Council strictly limited the transfer of household registration from villages to cities and towns (Wang Haiguang 2003). In the name of prioritizing industrial construction and the proletariat, the provision of goods, education, and health care was far better in the cities than in the countryside, but this advantage could only be preserved if population growth in urban centers was kept under strict control. Migration in China, as in the Soviet Union, was largely linked to state projects such as the industrialization of the Northeast, Inner Mongolia, and inland cities of the so-called three lines of defense against attack from Taiwan; the cultivation of fallows in central and northern China (involving 16 million temporary rural migrants during the Cultural Revolution decade of 1966–76 alone); and the removal of the surplus urban workforce, including the relocation of more than 17 million educated youths to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution (Lary 1999:35– 42). Yet there were also large-scale spontaneous migrations; in addition to the estimated 30 million who migrated to the cities during the Great Leap (20 million of whom were forcibly returned), an estimated...


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