Gated, Locked Migrant Areas Impact Chinese Economy

Rising crime rates in China have led to a new and relatively draconian security measure, the installation of locked gates around migrant worker living areas near major cities like Beijing.

Over the past twenty years, China’s economy has opened up, but, alongside the rush of country folk into the cities, violent offenses — including murder, theft, and rape — have increased about 10 percent. China has turned to a practice of “sealed management” for relief, where lower-income neighborhoods are locked overnight and police check IDs and guard potential entry and exit points.

According to the Associated Press:

“Gating has been an easy and effective way to control population throughout Chinese history, said Huang [Youqin, an associate professor of geography at the University at Albany in New York]. In past centuries, some walled cities would impose curfews and close their gates overnight. In the first decades of communist rule, the desire for top-down organization and control showed in work-unit compounds, usually guarded and enclosed.

“As the economy has grown, privately run gated communities with their own security have emerged in the biggest cities, catering to well-to-do Chinese and expatriates, offering upscale houses and facilities such as pools and gyms. The new gated villages in Beijing are different.

“‘To put it crudely, gated communities in the city are a way for the upper middle-class and urban rich to keep out trespassers, whereas gated villages represent a way for the state to “keep in” or contain the problem of “migrant workers” who live in these villages,’ Pow Choon-Pieu, an assistant professor of geography at the National University of Singapore who has studied the issue, said in an e-mail.

“Jiang Zhengqing, a supermarket owner in the gated compound of Laosanyu, told the China Daily newspaper in May that he doesn’t even know if he’ll be in business next year because of the drop in customers.”

When push comes to shove China seems comfortable putting harsh restrictions on the low-wage workforce that has been central to its economic growth. The supermarket owner’s personal take hints at at least one potential negative economic consequence and, combined with increasingly common factory worker strikes, China may be building a pressure cooker of underemployed in its rapidly growing cities.

You can read more details from the Associated Press in its coverage of Beijing gating and locking its migrant villages.


Rocky Vega,
The Daily Reckoning