Interview: Shao Feng

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The biggest characteristic of urban villages is the urbanization supported by rural industrialization. Therefore, urbanization also started in the rural area. 
The rural enterprises of Zhejiang started earlier, because Zhejiang features 70 percent of mountain, 20 percent of water and 10 percent of farming land. The residents there cannot survive only on the farming land. 
So after carrying out reform and open-up policy, the unrestricted peasants started to transfer the limited surplus farming land into the capitals of industrialization locally under the rural-urban structure. 
At first, these rural enterprises were not run in small towns, but basically in villages. Therefore, they were scattered in villages. 
However, the rural infrastructure facilities were not perfect then. The traffic was inconvenient. Therefore, it was not an ideal workplace. It was only for everyone’s convenience. Since it was hard to get access to the cities, or they didn’t have the capability to go there. 
So, they could only move into villages and stay there. With some enterprises taking lead in enlarging the production scale, they found it unsuitable to stay in villages any more, so they started to flock into towns naturally.  
Of course, some enterprises moved into towns early. More and more enterprises choose to survive in small towns under the urban-rural pattern as they could not tap into big cities. 
Therefore, urbanization in Zhejiang has been supported by the rural industries. As a result, this type of urbanization is restricted to the scope of county in the current urban-rural structure system. 
Therefore, we have to carry out county-level industrialization and county-level urbanization. This has created a large batch of small cities as well as a few medium-sized cities and especially forced the rapid growth of small cities and towns. 
Therefore, urbanization in Zhejiang mainly focused on medium- and small cities and small towns. The development of big cities began in the new century when the urbanization broke the restriction of counties. 
Some fast-growth enterprises found that the brand at county level was not adequate, so they started to expand further. With the development of market economy, the urban-rural structure is being loosened gradually. 
Some enterprises then have started to gather in higher platforms such as large industrial parks of big cities. Some have even moved to Shanghai Pudong or other places. That’s the process of urbanization in Zhejiang. Now, this urbanization has no boundary. 
However, the preliminary stage was within the scope of county. Up to now, our urbanization is only partly embodied in a few big cities. There are not many of them, and their functions are not strong as well. 
The majority is our medium- and small-sized cities. Such a pattern has made urban-rural relationship very harmonious. 
Why? Because small cities have natural relationships with the agricultural, rural and peasant sector. There’s no threshold for peasants to do business, find jobs or buy a house there. Or the threshold is very low. 
Those mechanisms formed during the planned economic system pose no problem at all. Those mechanisms mainly function in big cities. A permanent urban residence certificate is related to various insurances. But a rural residence certificate has nothing. There are few urban hukou holders in small cities or towns.  
Therefore, small cities and towns have become a major platform for entrepreneurship and employment of peasants. Peasants can easily get access into the urban society.
At the same time, they will play a positive role for agriculture. We start to implement land circulation in the rural area and progress to scale operation. 
Therefore, agricultural modernization level in Zhejiang comparatively takes lead in China. 
Can you give some good examples? 
For this process, you started with the rural township enterprises, and then expand the scope. It is a process of gradual open-up following the external environment. 
Therefore, urbanization is a step-by-step process toward big cities. Can you introduce some good examples during this process? 
It is basically the same case with every place. It is the general process as I mentioned just now. There’re in fact some smaller phases inside it. 
In the early 1990s, some counties, including some towns with certain scales started to set up their own industrial gardens. 
Some village enterprises wanted to enlarge their scales or wanted higher development platforms to provide them with this service. They set up industrial gardens to provide this platform. 
Accordingly, this promoted the development of towns. It was the same case with every place. Besides, there’s a special phenomenon in Zhejiang. We call it enterprise cluster, or sometimes “fast-growth economy”. 
One major feature of rural industrialization in Zhejiang is that the peasants are very good at imitation. 
Today you opened a very profitable business. I can learn from you and I will open a similar business tomorrow. Then, another person follows the day after tomorrow. Gradually, a large portion of people are doing this business. At last it will form a business cluster.