Policy wonk digest – China Round 2

There’s too much of interest to leave to just one policy wonk digest for China. So here’s round two.

Central planning of housing
The government is commissioning residential developments in second tier cities (like Kunming) in an effort to encourage their growth rather than the overpopulation of the first tier cities (like Shanghai). Unfortunately there isn’t demand for the new housing, so cities are left with vast vacant developments and infrastructure that caters to a population far greater than they actually have. They feel a bit empty.

Central planning of central heating
In the north the government control when landlords can switch on central heating (mid November) and when to switch it off again (mid April). The dates are static. They don’t change for the climate conditions of any given year.

Regulating internal migration
Immigration is generally free between Chinese provinces, but access to some public services, notably schooling, requires internal migrants to gain a certain number of ‘points’ like you might for a skilled migrant visa to New Zealand. You get points for a university degree, fluency in English, computer skills etc.

This is intended to check the mass exodus from the countryside to the prosperous cities. It has, to an extent. It’s also meant many migrant workers leave their kids at home, so they can stay in school. And others move their families to the city, but then don’t educate their kids. I’m not wild about people having leave or disadvantage their kids when trying to make their fortune, but I wonder if there is something here as a model for free immigration globally.

Crowd sourcing recycling
Recycling options are hit and miss. But there are enough plastic bottles in the bins to justify small armies of workers fossicking through trash to collect them and sell them on. It’s awkward to say out loud, but this seems to be a pretty reasonable use for the migrant workers who otherwise couldn’t earn a crust.

Certified foreigner hotels.
Hotels in China have to get certified to be able to take foreigners. Best as I can tell this means having the ability to scan our passports and pass them on to police. You would think that’s not too hard. In big cities where we’ve stayed in hostels it hasn’t been a problem. But when you’re on the hunt for China’s obscure last Maoist community things can get more difficult. Last night in Zhengzhou we were saved by an enterprising hotelier who snapped photos of our passports with her smartphone.

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