I’m behind the curve in congratulating Liu Xiaobo on his Nobel Peace Prize, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to recommend that everyone actually take the time to read the Charter 08 document he’s associated with.
One of its planks that I’ve been particularly interested in since visiting China is this one:
Rural–Urban Equality. The two-tier household registry system must be abolished. This system favors urban residents and harms rural residents. We should establish instead a system that gives every citizen the same constitutional rights and the same freedom to choose where to live.
When I wrote about the hukou system previously I speculated that one consequence of its existence may be to give the urban population a vested interest in resisting democratic political reform. I think Charter 08’s critique of hukou tends to support that view as he specifically says it favors urban residents. And yet it’s the educated urban middle classes to whom westerners often look in anticipation of a movement for democracy. As it happens, there’s a University of Ohio professor named Jeremy Wallace who’s working on a book about “Cities and Stability: Urbanization, Migration, and Authoritarian Resilience in China” so I’ll wait to read that before drawing any firmer conclusions.