空心化- China’s hollowed-out countryside

67-year-old Tian Yunxiu and his 65-year-old wife Liu Dezhen in the buckwheat field owned by their village, Ximawan, Jingbian County, Shaanxi province. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)

The Ministry of Tofu has posted a series of photographs by Liu Jie of villagers with empty chairs representing family members who are working in cities far from home.  The term 空心化 kongxinhua, literally ‘heart becoming empty’, is used more and more these days in China to describe the hollowing out of the countryside as more and more villagers migrate to the cities to find work, leaving parents and children behind.

Women, children and the senior form the major demographic structure of today’s rural villages. They are nicknamed “Unit 386199,” in which “38” stands for March 3 the International Women’s Day and alludes to women, “61,” the International Children’s Day, represents women, and “99” is the ninth day of the ninth month in Chinese lunar calendar and is observed as a festival for senior citizens. According to a study by China Agriculture University, currently 87 million people are left behind in rural areas, which include 20 million children, 20 million senior citizens and 47 million wives of migrant workers.

See all the images here.

67-year-old Xue Peizhong and his wife Yang Guilan with their grandson at their backyard in the township of Duiziliang, Dingbian County, Shaanxi province. More than ten people in Xue Peizhong’s family have left their farm to either work or go to school in other cities. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)

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5 Responses to 空心化- China’s hollowed-out countryside

  1. Ashley Bernal says:

    As I was looking through the pictures from the article, 空心化, I was shocked to realize that there were more migrant workers in the city than I thought. I’ve been to shanghai, Beijing, and many other places in china, so I realize that the number of migrant workers is high. However when you look at the reverse picture, the pictures of people who have been left behind, you have to think about the level of commitment and dedication those migrant workers put into working for their family. The migrant workers put in so much effort to help their family as best they can and they hardly get anything in return. The economical status of rural China isn’t the best either, and often the farmers in rural china are paid nothing or their land is taken from them for basically nothing as well. This i think is a flaw of the Chinese government. They are so focused on increasing their revenue stream that they don’t care about the people that are working in their factories and businesses. They have no respect for others which is ironic because their family history probably comes from those migrant workers that left the rural fields to make THEIR family’s life better.

    Along with the whole economic aspect of this all, I feel that, depending where you are in China, your major contributors to the country’s welfare is in what food you can grow and harvest. Without the families the migrant workers leave behind in rural china, China would have no way to eat. In the south, you have your rice paddies, in the north, your wheat production (noodles!). These are the life of China so you would assume that people get paid more for contributing to China’s welfare as a whole rather than need to send their children to the city to try and earn ends meat. I feel that China’s system is skewed since it focuses on more monetary gain rather than trying to help its people and until they can start a reformation, a change, of this skewed China, we will continue to see more and more rural families left behind in rural China, while more and more migrant workers fill the cities of China.

  2. toakes says:

    Thanks for the comment Ashley –
    It’s also important to remember that there are parts of the government that are devoted to people’s welfare, and that China’s government is very large and complex. Some might argue that focusing on economic growth is the government’s best way to ensure as many jobs for as many people as possible. That agriculture gets left behind is, in some ways, inevitable in such a situation, and is something that all industrializing nations experience at some point.

  3. Pingback: The left-behind countryside – another report from Guizhou | geography3822

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