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Former farmers landscape former farmland in China

Former farmers plant trees and sow grass seeds in a park built over farmland in southwestern China's Chengdu city.

The local government is razing villages and farmland on the outskirts of the city to make way for urban development.

These women are from the distant township of Guang'an. They work in brigades and sleep in dormitories. They each earn around 1,000 yuan per month landscaping the city, an improvement over subsistence farming.

China is pushing ahead with a dramatic, history-making plan to move 250 million rural residents into towns and cities over the next dozen years — but without a clear idea of how to pay for the gargantuan undertaking or whether the farmers involved want to move.

Moving farmers to urban areas is touted as a way of changing China’s economic structure, with growth based on domestic demand for products instead of exporting them. In theory, new urbanites mean vast new opportunities for construction firms, public transportation, utilities and appliance makers, and a break from the cycle of farmers consuming only what they produce.

Urbanization has already proven to be one of the most wrenching changes in China’s 35 years of economic reforms. Land disputes rising from urbanization account for tens of thousands of protests each year.

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Former farmers plant trees and sow grass seeds in a park built over farmland in southwestern China's Chengdu city.<br />
<br />
The local government is razing villages and farmland on the outskirts of the city to make way for urban development. <br />
<br />
These women are from the distant township of Guang'an. They work in brigades and sleep in dormitories. They each earn around 1,000 yuan per month landscaping the city, an improvement over subsistence farming.  <br />
<br />
China is pushing ahead with a dramatic, history-making plan to move 250 million rural residents into towns and cities over the next dozen years — but without a clear idea of how to pay for the gargantuan undertaking or whether the farmers involved want to move.<br />
<br />
Moving farmers to urban areas is touted as a way of changing China’s economic structure, with growth based on domestic demand for products instead of exporting them. In theory, new urbanites mean vast new opportunities for construction firms, public transportation, utilities and appliance makers, and a break from the cycle of farmers consuming only what they produce.<br />
<br />
Urbanization has already proven to be one of the most wrenching changes in China’s 35 years of economic reforms. Land disputes rising from urbanization account for tens of thousands of protests each year.