China eyes city growth to boost economy

China will relax restrictions on new residents in smaller cities.
China will relax restrictions on new residents in smaller cities.

China will relax residency curbs in many smaller cities and increase infrastructure spending in a fresh push to boost the urban population and revive slowing economic growth.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said it aims to increase China's urbanisation rate by at least one per cent by the end of this year.

The latest push is part of its longer-term goal of bringing 100 million people into the cities over the five years to 2020. In 2018, 59.6 per cent of China's population lived in urban areas.

"This will provide strong support for maintaining sustained and healthy economic development and overall social stability," the NDRC said in a notice on its website.

The NDRC will scrap restrictions in cities of one to three million on coveted household registration permits for out-of-towners like migrant workers and college graduates.

For cities of three to five million, which include many provincial capitals, such restrictions will be "comprehensively relaxed".

Such permits, known as "hukou", have been used to control internal migration in China for many years.

Without a permit, a resident of a city is denied access to many public services, such as education and healthcare.

These restrictions have often been blamed for pushing migrants to the margins of society in China's cities.

Under China's multi-year crackdown on the country's property investment bubble, internal migrants are also often categorised as speculative buyers and have been subject to local purchase curbs, adding to pressures on these communities.

The NDRC added Beijing will guide policy banks to step up credit support to fund key urban projects, as well as encourage commercial banks to "properly boost" their credit support for such projects.

The NDRC will also support the launches of real estate investment trusts (REITs), to help the development of the rental housing market.

Australian Associated Press