PC is an investor running Investor Diary in Hong Kong. He is also a good friend of mine after we exchanged some emails. He dropped me an email today and discussed about the idea of moving to smaller cities.
Dear Jian Shuo,
In the US an increasing number of people choose to live outside of the big cities because of lower costs of living and better quality of live. See http://www.forbes.com/bestplaces/2005/01/20/life2land05.html
I wonder if the same can be applied to China. Apart from the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, are there smaller cities in China that are cheaper and nicer (e.g. air quality, population density etc.) to live? For example, what about places like Tsing Dao?
Maybe that can be a topic for your post later on. Anyway just a thought.
PC, thanks for the good topic. Yes. I will write about it.
Moving into Cities? It is a Dream
China is still at the stage of urbanization. It remains a dream for the 0.6 billion population in country-side to move into cities. They struggle for their whole life to get a city Hukou so they can move into cities. If they don’t get the Hukou, they are called farmer workers, with no health insurance, no education opportunities
To enter a collage is one of the very few ways to get a city Hukou. I have friends who tried more than 5 times for the collage examinations. It was 5 years of waiting and trying. If he didn’t try, he will remain a farmer for the rest of his life (before the Hukou system changes).
Moving into Largest Cities? It is a Dream
For people in smallest cities, they want to go to bigger cities like Luoyang (which has 6 million population). There are more job possibilities there.
For people in these middle sized cities, like me, they try to move to bigger cities. People in Shanghai or Beijing have many benefits which people in other cities don’t have. Let’s take education opportunity as an example.
In Henan Province, only 1 out of 5 students has the chance to enter university at the time I completed my high school, while in Shanghai, the ratio was about 4 out of 5. In Beijing, the ratio is higher.
Shanghai Jiao Tong University accepted 56 students from Henan province (with a population of 100 million) while accepted several hundred from Shanghai (with population of 12 million at that time). When I was in grade two or three in high school, some of my friends transferred to high school in Beijing or Shanghai. The reason is simple. In Luoyang, they worried about whether they could be accepted by a colleague, while in Beijing, they only worry about whether they can enter Tsinghua or Peking Univ. That is the difference.
Besides education, the job opportunity, the income, the city facility in bigger cities are better. I never heard of drama or symphony performance in Luoyang, but I can see them in Shanghai. It seems everything in big city is better in smaller city – except the hot competition, the high pressure and the bad air.
There are too many people looking for opportunities to enter biggest cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, while so less thinking about moving out.
Moving Out to Smaller Cities? It is Also a Dream
For those who already have good life in Shanghai, sometimes, they may be attempted to move out of bigger cities when they bear too much pressure. It’s just like say “Hey, I hope I can stay at the sand beach for the rest of my life.” It is a dream that no one really get it.
Wendy and I joked: If we sell out our house and we move back to Luoyang, maybe we don’t have to work for the rest of the life. The living standard in Luoyang is low and everything is cheap. In a city where people with 200 RMB monthly income can lead pretty good life, we have many 200 RMB to spend. We can lead happy life there. It is only a dream. There are too many things we cannot give up.
Wendy’s friends, a couple with a newly-born child, once told me about the same dream. They are alone in Shanghai and no one takes care of their child – both of them need to work and an Ayi is not helpful enough to take of the newly-born child. After several months of life like “working at day time and taking care of the child till early morning”, they really thought about giving up the high pressure life in Shanghai and go back to the small town. We said, we all have the dream, but how can we really do it?
Nice Small Cities
There are some very nice smaller cities in China. Here are some on my life:
- Dalian in Liaoning Province
- Tsingtao (or Qing Dao) in Shandong Province
- Xiamen in Fujan Province
- Sanya in Hainan Province
- Beihai in Guangxi Province
- Suzhou in Jiangsu Province
The list can be long. They are really nice with good view or environment. People are nice and the pace of living is slow. However, I don’t think it feasible to move. You can not get 1/3 of the salary you get here. If someone does not need to work, and he/she just want to find sometime to retire, he/she can do it. Dalian or Qingdao is good choice.
Move? It is not Easy in China
U.S. is a country on cars. People pack up everything and drive to a new city to settle down. Since the country is the immigrated country, it is common for people to move.
China is not. Moving was traditionally considered to be very bad thing. The last thing people in China will do (traditionally) is to move home. We call it Bei Jing Li Xiang 背井离乡, or directly translated to English: Go away from the well and leave one’s home town. If there is not disaster in that area, people do not move.
Recently, the metropolitan like Shanghai attracted many people to do it, for sake of the family’s future, they move. Many move only for better education for next generation. For sake of children is still the #1 reason for those who immigrate to Canada. It is very rare to see someone to move back to smaller cities. I never heard about it so far.
China is different. It is at the stage when everyone rushes to cities. Maybe after several years, when people are more mobilized, a very small portion of the population may think about moving out. In Shanghai, people have cars started to move out of the downtown and move into the town house out side the Outer Ring. It is a positive sign of the future move.
To move from smaller cities into bigger cities is a dream that many people have realized. To move from bigger cities out to smaller cities is also a dream that no one takes it seriously.
P.S. Steve-O flattered me to be the “nicest guy in the world!” today. Maybe. But I am the happiest guy in the world when I got your comment. Thank you Steve-O!