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China's urban migration

A recycling center in the Chinese city of Ganjia.
Photo courtesy of UC Press
A recycling center in the Chinese city of Ganjia.

The magnitude of China’s urban migration can be hard to fathom when you hear the numbers.

In the past 30 years, the country’s urban population has more than doubled.  In 2011, more than 270 million peasants registered to live in the countryside were working in urban areas. They left their families and farmland behind in search for a better life in China’s cities. Over the next 30 years, the urban population is expected to double, once again, reaching one billion.

In about a dozen years, China will have 220 cities with populations above one million. Fifteen supercities will each have more than 25 million residents. By comparison, the entire state of Texas has 25 million people.

These are the numbers that journalist Michelle Dammon Loyalka starts off with in her new book, Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China’s Great Urban Migration. It chronicles the lives of eight migrants, and in the process, illustrates the entire country’s complicated character and problematic growth.

Loyalka joined Global Journalist host David Reed in-studio, to discuss her book. Joining the program by phone was Mark Frazier, an endowed Professor of Chinese Politics at the University of Oklahoma.

Rehman Tungekar is a former producer for KBIA, who left at the beginning of 2014.