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The Anomalous Behavior and Public Management--The Empirical Study on China's Rural-Urban Migration


In cities, management of the population that has come from the rural areas has developed from a general social issue into a public issue and given rise to public complaints from various circles. It has become a major element on the public policy agenda of urban governments.

The public issue caused by the flow of the rural population can be divided into two aspects: swell of the aggregate urban population, an issue that has added new pressures to public facilities in the urban areas; and anomalous behavior of some of the rural migrants, an issue that has aroused much concern from the urban society. The former has been reflected in the strain of the supply of housing, traffic facilities, water supply and electricity, while the latter has manifested itself in the deterioration of public order. Between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, social concern focused on the former. Since the 1990s, however, the focus has shifted onto the latter.

As an empirical study of the anomalous behavior and management of the rural- urbem migrants, this article has drawn its conclusion from the research papers and field surveys carried out by this study group in recent years. Although the issue of the a anomalous behavior of rural migrants aroused social attention at a much earlier time, differences have been apparent in the assessment and understanding of this issue. A major defect in our public management of rural migrants at present is over-emphasis on prevention and restriction and lack of services. Substandard management behaviors and irrational policy frameworks in themselves can be an important factor leading rural migrants to anomalous behavior. Facing the massive inflow of the rural population, the key to the integration of the urban society is to take the training of new citizens as the basic guide to all management policies.

1.Assessment of "problem rural migrants" and crime rate of rural migrants

Rural migrants (with a particular reference to nonnative residents who have come to cities mainly to look for jobs) constitute a major part of nonnative residents and a major community targeted by policies on the management of nonnative residents.

People begun to pay attention to rural migrants staying in a criminal situation, that is, the issue of commission of crimes by rural migrants, at a fairly early time. They have not paid sufficient attention, however, to the stay of an increasing number of rural migrants in another situation. We will call the latter as "problem rural migrants" in our article. "Problem rural migrants" and criminal rural migrants are two different concepts.

The basic background against which we have put forward the concept of "problem rural migrants" is like this: Although there has been no noticeable increase in the total number of the rural population leaving their hometowns in the recent two years, and there has even been a decrease in them in some areas, there has been a fairly fast swell in the number of the rural emigrants who have been leading an abnormal life. Although these people have left their hometowns of residence registration and entered cities or other areas, they have not been properly employed or secured any normal sources of income. Or to put it in another way, they have come across problems of one kind or another in their unstable life. For this reason, we have given them the name "problem rural migrants."

1. Composition of "problem rural migrants".

They can be roughly divided into three types: (1). Unemployed rural migrants who have failed in seeking jobs in cities but have not retreated from cities. (2). Birth control evaders who have found normal jobs but have obviously violated birth control regulations. (3). Wanderers who have left their hometowns not to find jobs or who have been extremely abnormal in employment, such as those who have been involved in family rows or who have conflicted with grassroots units in rural areas. Some of these people live mainly by begging or appealing to the higher authorities for help. "Problem rural migrants" have emerged, it can be said, with the rise of the tide of floating employment, just as the mud and sand stirred up in a surging tide. The rapid swell of the size of this community, however, has started only in recent years.

2. The swell of "problem rural migrants".

The speed of the swell of the number of "problem rural migrants" has been faster than that of the rural migrants on the move in recent years. According to a survey in Shanghai, the increase in the size of this community has been extremely eye-catching. Public security departments have tried to take in normative residents who have no legal certificates of identification, no legal occupations, or no normal sources of income. They are simply called the "3- haven'ts" In the 1980s, the average number of these migrants taken in was less than 10,000 a year. In 1988, for instance, the total number of these people who were taken in and sent back to their hometowns accounted for about one per cent of the total number of people immigrating into the city. Although the number of migrants has increased rapidly since the 1990s, the number of those taken in has grown even faster, In 1994, as many as 40,000 people or 1.4% of the total migrants were taken in and sent back to their hometowns. In 1996, the figures stood at 80,000 and 2.8% respectively. By 1997, the figures further grew to over 100,000 and 3.6 % respectively. A sample survey of the floating population has revealed that 1993 saw the biggest inflow of population from other parts of the country into the city. The number of people taken in the year, however, was less than half of that in 1997. This shows that although the total number of rural migrants has been put under control or has been basically stabilized in recent years, the thorny element involved has increased remarkably. Or to put it further, the stabilization of the total number of rural migrants does not mean a solution of the key issues of government management.

Unfavorable change of the structure of "problem rural migrants". Urban management departments have been of the opinion that of the migrants taken in and sent back to their hometowns, the proportion of those who are old, weak or physically disabled and those who have been forced by disasters to leave their hometowns has not enlarged noticeably. According to rough calculations, the proportion of this type of migrants was basically maintained at about 2% of the total number of migrants taken in and sent back to their hometowns throughout the 1990s. This shows that the governments of the regions from where these migrants have come from have been successful in providing various kinds of relief and no big numbers of refugees have ever been created in the rural areas. What calls for our attention is that among the people taken in and sent back to their hometowns, the number of those who have committed offences of one kind or another has increased remarkably. Of those taken in 1989, 4,600 had committed minor offences. In 1993, the number rose to 8,500. In 1996 and 1997, the figure grew to 14,500 and 21,000 respectively.

The swell of the community of "problem rural migrants" has been a major source of social problems in cities. In order to minimize the negative effects of the flow of rural migrants, top attention must be paid to the solution of the issues relating to this special community rather than to the mere reduction of the total number of rural migrants on the move.

3. Rational assessment of the extent of the crimes committed by rural migrants. It has been generally agreed in many surveys conducted in the past that nonnative criminals would account for half of the criminals in urban areas, or even over 60% in some cases. In large cities such as Beijing. and Shanghai and the Zhujiang River Delta that boast a comparatively big concentration of migrants, the proportion would be even bigger. It seems, however, that the number of crimes committed by migrants against the total number of crimes in urban areas should not be taken as the basis for any accurate assessment of the extent of the crimes of migrants. This is because some specific factors behind these figures should be taken into consideration.

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