About China

4 Major Differences Between Rural and Urban China

By eChinacities | 2016-12-25

China is a miscellaneous patchwork of Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan), Autonomous Regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Guangxi) and 25 other provinces. However, there exists a great divide within this convoluted system that may not be as defined or understood as the others. With Deng Xiaoping's motto of "Let some people get rich first"让一部分人先富起来and economic/political reforms primarily targeting large metropolitan cities, there's now a major cultural gap between the residents in urban and rural areas. And while there are always discrepancies between cities and villages across the globe, the ones in China are significantly more pronounced.


1) Crimes of passion

Rural citizens commit more crime in the name of love than those in cities. Astonishingly, from 2008-2011, over 50% of homicides in rural China were linked to romance. In a recent example, last September Zheng Lu, a middle aged male from rural Jiangsu Province, murdered nine people he suspected of having a love affair with his wife. According to China Daily, people in rural areas do not fully understand the nation's young legal system and choose personal revenge over law. This lack of education concerning legal institutions, and the violence that comes with it, has an extremely harmful effect on society.



Luckily, this scenario is not the norm for China's metropolitan cities. In developed regions, the number of violent altercations blamed on marriage and relationship disputes is significantly lower. During the same period from 2008-2011, only 15% of total homicides in Guangzhou were romantically related. In Shanghai, there were zero homicides related to romance, and just one single case of "intentional injury" between two lovers.


2) Individual or collective mentality

City residents are beginning to break from traditional values and put themselves first over the community. It's said that Westerners have an individual outlook on civil society while the Chinese take a collective approach. But in developed cities, urban China is not only adopting Western music, fashion and food with Lady Gaga, Nike and McDonalds; the individualistic "me first" mentality is also blossoming. Even President Hu Jintao recognizes this drastic transformation. 


Quoting from a January 3rd, 2012 New York Times article, President Hu stated in a Communist Party policy magazine that, "China must strengthen its cultural production to defend against the West's assault on the country's culture and ideology."


In rural settings where Western influence is minimal or even nonexistent, people still hold onto traditional values and put the family, village, farm and/or community ahead of the individual. One reason for this collective mentality is Confucianism. Confucianism, a major pillar of Chinese society for more than 2,500 years, stresses the importance of respecting your parents, obedience to superiors and loyalty to friends. The main goal of this ancient philosophy is to create a harmonious society through a hierarchical system where the individual takes orders from superiors, no matter what his or her preferences may be. Nowadays, keeping with tradition, important decisions like marriage are still decided within the family unit.



3) Employment

A growing proportion of China's urban graduates are landing white collar jobs in metropolitan cities and are purchasing apartments, cars, well known name brands and the latest consumer goods. These Chinese yuppies, or "chuppies," are also well educated, open minded, fluent in English, career oriented and familiar with current international events. But not every graduate makes it in the urban jungle. The "ants" – a term used to describe educated Chinese graduates working skilled jobs at very low wages – are the branch of the white collar workers who don't quite reach the level of chuppie affluence. While stats concerning chuppies are hard to come by, according to CNN, an estimated 300 million Chinese (about 25% of the total population) are classified as middle/upper class and these people make up about 50% of the total urban population.


A very large number of individuals from rural communities are classified as migrant workers or farmers. Migrant workers leave their hometowns without a college education to find blue collar jobs (usually in the construction industry) in developing cities. Migrant workers spend long periods of time away from their families, work seasonal projects around the nation and send remittances back home. Farmers, likewise, usually lack a college education and, similar to their urban counterparts "the ants," work long hours for minimal wages. Currently, 120 million Chinese (nearly 10% of the population) are migrant workers while 300 million (about 25% of the total population) are farmers.



4) Marriage and divorce

In urban zones, the notion of marriage is drastically changing. More and more Chinese are choosing their mate without their parents' counsel, marrying foreigners, or opting not to get married at all. "Flash marriages" (闪婚) – marriages between a couple who have known each other for less than seven months and lack their parents' approval – are also becoming more prevalent in big cities due to the growing Western notion of "love at first sight." Nonetheless, one in five Chinese marriages end in divorce, with that number climbing to 40% in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. And while divorce can be blamed on a variety of factors, it's said that money is the number one reason for the high urban divorce rate.


In the countryside, ancient tradition still runs deep and dominates the local culture. In ancient times, a marriage was predominately decided by families and served not only as a bond between a man and a woman, but also between families and villages. Parents today still greatly control the dating scene in rural areas and are the ones who choose, approve or veto their child's mate. Furthermore, couples tend to get married and have children at a younger age than those in cities, usually in their late teens to early 20s. But not even traditional regions can split from China's growing divorce rate. Sichuan, a predominately rural province in southwest China, had the country's highest divorce rate in 2010 with 169,294 separations. Unlike urban zones, however, divorces in rural China are not blamed on money, but rather families splitting up due to migrant workers relocating and finding jobs in different cities.



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