07 June 2009

The hukou system in China

China tends to polarize sentiments. First, you have the gushers - those who are misty-eyed by her economic growth, her Olympics opening and and for whom she can do no wrong. Then, you have the bashers - those who can only see the spitting, the cheating and in turn cocoon themselves in a lifestyle of chauffeurs and champagne brunches.

Occasionally, there comes along someone who tries to bring an educated, considered view into this picture through an individual effort. (As opposed to self-professed China experts who make empty proclamations of how "China is really complex" without saying what the complexity is.)

I have been reading »Wangjianshuo's blog for a few years now and have just cleared his recent posts from my Google Reader. I highly recommend his two posts on the Chinese hukou system - »this and »this. For the profound impact it has on the day-to-day lives of Chinese, the hukou system seems to be relatively unknown to outsiders. I still recall my surprise when a Shanghai colleague had to miss a Hong Kong conference because his transit permit didn't reach him in time from his hukou in Shijiazhuang. Another told me matter-of-factly that her application to move her hukou to Shanghai took all of four years.

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