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Industrialization and Urban Housing in Communist China

  • Kang Chao


The state of housing in a country has a direct impact on the level of public health, on the crime rate, and on many other social problems of importance. It also has an indirect effect on labor productivity in the economy through the general morale of workers. Practically all countries today are facing housing problems in varying degrees, especially in urban areas. For an underdeveloped country, its ability to provide adequate housing in urban areas is a vital prerequisite for successful industrialization. In countries which are relatively well developed, the rising income level of the population creates a constantly increasing demand for better dwellings.



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1 The State Statistical Bureau, Ten Great Years: Statistics of the Economic and Cultural Achievements of the People's Republic of China (Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1960) p. 8. This is the latest known official figure. It excludes the Chinese living in Hong Kong, Macao and abroad. Although Chinese population statistics are generally believed to be frequently inaccurate, they are adequate for the analytic purposes of this paper.

2 See Aird, John S., “Present and Prospective Population of Mainland China,” in Population Trends in Eastern Europe, the USSR and Mainland China (Milbank Memorial Fund, 1960) pp. 93133.

3 The Chinese official definition of urban population has been changed. According to the new definition adopted in 1955, urban places are those with 2,000 inhabitants or more of whom at least half are engaged in nonagricultural pursuits. Places of 1,000 to 2,000 population may also be classified as urban if not less than 75% of the population is nonagricultural. See “State Council Resolution on the Criteria for Demarcation of Urban and Rural Areas,” Tung-chi kung-tso tung-hsun [Statistical Bulletin] No. 12, 1955, p. 4.

4 Cities are large urban centers, independent of counties (hsien) and directly under the administrative jurisdiction of the central government or of the provincial and special district governments.

4a One Chinese Communist publication has given the differential growths of population in the period 1952–55 as follows:

Total urban population increased by 20%

Population in all cities increased by 26%

Population in ten large industrial cities including Shenyang, Changchun, Anshan, Loyang, Paotou, Sian and Lanchow increased by 51%

See Keng-sheng, Szu, “Several Problems in Our Country's Population Statistics that Need Further Study and Discussion,” Tung-chi kung-tso [Statistical Work] No. 5, 1957, p. 17. The growth rate of total urban population is perhaps based on mid-year figures, hence is inconsistent with the official figures cited in Table 1.

5 Based on the data given in Liu, Ta-chung and Yeh, Kung-chia, Assisted by Twanmo, Chong, The Economy of the Chinese Mainland: National Income and Economic Development, 1933–1959 (The RAND Corporation, RM-3519-PR, Santa Monica, Calif., April 1963) pp. 94 and 110.

6 Ten Great Years, p. 59.

7 There were 12 cities, each accommodating 11–20 new above-norm projects, and 6 cities, each having more than 21 new above-norm projects. See Yen-hsin, Tsao, “Arrange City Construction Works in Accordance with die Principle of Diligence and Thrift,” Chi-hua ching-chi [Planned Economy], No. 12, 1957, p. 4.

9 Ten Great Years, p. 12 and Ullman, Morris B., Cities of Mainland China: 1953 and 1958 (Foreign Manpower Research Office, US Bureau of the Census, Series P-95, No. 59, August 1961) p. 15.

10 In 1958 and 1959, the construction work was spread over about 2,100 cities and towns. See Hsin-hua pan-yueh-kan [New China Semi-Monthly], No. 19, 1959, p. 52.

11 Chao, Kang, The Rate and Pattern of Industrial Growth in Communist China (The University of Michigan Press, 1965) Chapter V.

12 Ten Great Years, p. 180.

13 Op. cit., p. 183. The official employment figures for 1958 are not quite comparable with those for previous years because 1958's figures include workers of the commune industries. A new estimate of 1958's employment figure in the urban areas will be attempted later in this section.

14 Chung, Yun, “Problems of Coordinating City Construction Work, Housing, and Service Facilities in New Industrial Districts,” Chi-hua ching-chi, No. 4, 1957, p. 13.

14a Total urban population increased only 1.6% in 1955. Sec Table 1.

15 Li, Choh-ming, Economie Development of Communist China (The University of California Press, 1959) p. 203.

16 I-hsiang, Chao, “A Study of the Housing Potential in Shanghai,” Hseuh-shu yueh-kan [Journal of Learning], No. 4, 1958, p. 45 and Kuang, SunWe Must Control Urban Population,” Hsin-hua pan-yueh-kan, No. 24, 1957, pp. 6162. The marriage rates in other countries in 1955 were me following

France 0.72% Austria 0.81% Poland 0.95%

Sweden 0.72% Netherland 0.83% Hungary 1.05%

Belgium 0.78% Bulgaria 0.84% USSR 1.18%

Czechoslovakia 0.79% Yugoslavia 0.92%

See The United Nations, Financing of Housing in Europe, 1958, Geneva, p. 21.

17 Lorimer, Frank, The Population of the Soviet Union (League of Nations, Geneva, 1946) pp. 106110, and Eckstein, Alexander, “Manpower and Industrialization in Communist China, 1949–1957,” in Population Trends in Eastern Europe, the USSR and Mainland China, 1960, p. 164.

18 Eckstein, Alexander, op. cit., p. 170.

19 Orleans, Leo A., “Population Redistribution in Communist China,” in Population Trends in Eastern Europe, the USSR and Mainland China, p. 144.

20 The Minister of Labor reported that the ratio between income earners to non-earners in urban population was 1:1.9 in 1958. See Wen-shui, Ma, “Ten Years' Struggle to Promote Labor Productivity and to Improve Workers' Living Conditions,” Hsin-hua pan-yueh-kan, No. 20, 1959, p. 50. If we assume that the total urban population in 1958 was 112 million, the total number of workers and other employees in urban areas should then be 38.6 million.

21 Financing of Housing in Europe, p. 21.

22 Chin-yung fa-kui hui-pien, [Collection of Financial Laws]. (Peking: Finance Publishing House, 1953) P. 312.

23 The breakdown of new housing within state plans and that outside state plans in the years 1953–56 is as follows (in 1,000 m2):

Total Within State Plans Outside State Plan

1953 13,420 12,010 1,410

1954 13,270 12,510 760

1955 14,460 12,630 1,830

1956 25,230 23,860 1,370

See Chien-chu hsueh-pao [Journal of Architecture], No. 6, 1957, p. 2.

24 I-hsiang, Chao, op. cit., p. 45.

25 Cheng Shih-fu and others, “A Study of the Problems Concerning the Designing and Planning of Residential Districts,” Chien-chu hsueh-pao, No. 3, 1962, pp. 1–3. Another Chinese source gave the total construction area of dwelling in 166 cities in 1955 as 280 million m2. See Kuan Sung-shen and Lo-Lai-yuan, “The Current Housing Problem in Our Country,” Hsin-hua pan-yueh-kan, No. 7, 1957, p. 71.

26 This ratio varies from .50 to .70 in Chinese houses; the average ratio for the new dwellings built in 1950–56 was .63. Here we use the round figure .60 as the average ratio throughout this paper. See Kung-yeh chang-yung ming-tsu-shu-yu chien-shih [Concise Dictionary of Common Industrial Terminology] (Peking: Science Promotion Publishing House, 1958) p. 91 and Cheng-shih chien-she [City Construction] No. 8, 1957, p. 12.

27 Kuan Sung-shen and Lo Lai-yuan, op. cit., p. 73.

30 Tsao Yen-hsin, op. cit., pp. 4–9.

31 Kuan Sung-shen and Lo Lai-yuan, op. cit., p. 73.

32 Tsao Yen-hsin, op. cit., p. 14.

33 Kuan Sung-shen and Lo Lai-yuan, op. cit., p. 73.

34 The ratios for the Communist countries are actually exaggerated because their concept of national income is more narrowly defined in comparison with the Western definitions of national income and gross national product.

35 Financing of Housing in Europe, pp. 12 and 21.

36 Total housing investment within the state plans during the 5 year period was 4.26 billion yuan (Chi-hua ching-chi, No. 12, 1957, p. 4), while total basic construction expenditures within the state plans in the same period amounted to 49.3 billion yuan (Ten Great Years, p. 56).

37 It is my own estimate. To obtain this figure, I multiplied die total volume of residential houses constructed in that period by 40 yuan per m2, which was the average unit cost of building residential houses in 1958 (Chi-hua ching-chi, No. 2, 1958, p. 6), and then divided the resultant value by the total basic construction investment in the period, which was 96.9 billion yuan.

38 Financing of Housing in Europe, p. 70.

40 Chien-chu hsueh-pao, No. 3, 1962, p. I. The figures are generally lower than the estimates made by Sosnovy, Timothy in his “The Soviet Housing Situation Today,” Soviet Studies, Vol. XI, No. 1, July 1959, p. 4.

41 Tsao Yen-hsing, op. cit., p. 5. In the 175 cities surveyed in 1956, the average per capita living space was only 3.5 m2.

42 Ibid. It was 4.9 m2 in small cities but only 3.2 m2 in large cities.

43 Chao I-hsiang, op. cit., p. 46.

44 Chuan-yu, Chiao, “Workers’ Housing Problems in Luta,” Hsin-hua pan-yueh-kan, No. 15, 1956 p. 88.

45 Chih-sen, Wen, “A Model Survey of Old Residential Districts in PekingChien-chu hsueh-pao, No. 6, 1956, p. 14.

46 Just to cite a few illustrative examples, each department head of the Ministry of Railways was assigned to a house of 14 rooms or about 200 m2; each professor at the Tsing hua University was distributed a residence of about 90 m2 (Hsin-hua pan-yueh-kan, No. 17, 1957, p. 120). The official standard of construction costs per m2 of houses for the “high-level intelligentsia” was twice that of ordinary residential houses and dormitories. See Tung-chi kang-tso [Statistical Work] No. 3, 1958, pp. 1516.

47 Tsu, Ou, Yu-ko, Liu and Pei-huang, Yuan, “Analyses and Suggestions on Technical and Economic Index for Housing Construction,” Chien-chu hsueh-pao No. 3, 1962, p. 12. The region surveyed is generally better than other areas in this aspect; its average per capita living space is 3.5 m2 which is above the national average.

48 Here we have assumed an average construction cost of 50 yuan per m2 for die whole period. The actual average cost for housing construction was 53.3 yuan per m2 in 1953–57 (Chi-hua ching-chi. No. 12, 1957, p. 6,) but it has dropped since 1958.

49 One Communist source mentions that “According to reliable statistics more than 10 million people have been sent down in the later part of 1961 and early 1962.” See Kung-tso tung-hsin [Work Bulletin], Political Bureau of the Chinese Liberation Army, April 19, 1962, No. 16, p. 24.

Industrialization and Urban Housing in Communist China

  • Kang Chao


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