If you’ve followed the broad strokes of the Grand China Narrative™ at any point over the last few boom decades, you probably know something about the great tide of migration the country has undergone in that time. The story focuses primarily on migrant laborers moving from rural to urban in the tens of millions, building up a rising China’s towering megacities and sending the spare cash back home to their families.
You might also have heard of the hukou 户口, a household registration system with ancient roots that was rebooted in its modern form in 1958, at the end of the first decade of Communist rule. A citizen’s hukou, issued at birth, significantly restricts their mobility and professional opportunities — a hukou in a first-tier city such as Beijing or Shenzhen is thus a highly prized asset.
If you aren’t familiar with all this but are interested to learn more, we’ve not seen a better breakdown of this topic than On the Road, an interactive web product just launched by Macro Polo, a publication by US-based China think tank Paulson Institute.
Macro Polo lets you choose a fictional migrant’s identity: one is the type of laborer that most readily comes to mind when talking about migration in China, but there’s also a 20-something entrepreneur eking out a living in a first-tier tech hub, and a high schooler with big-city dreams.
From there you’re taken to a blog post where you can read about this individual’s (fictional) experience, supplemented with real stats, infographics, and streaming interviews with actual migrants from similar backgrounds. Taken together, these three stories provide a fascinating, multi-generational account of the wave of migration that has fueled the Economic Miracle™ that Hank Paulson himself had no small part in engineering.
Dig in for yourself right here.
Cover image: Macro Polo
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