ChinaFile

Watch: China’s Emerging Back-to-the-Land Movement

With 300 villages disappearing every day, some urbanites are rethinking the country's development path.

Bishan

The world has heard much of late about the scale and scope of China’s mass migration from the poor rural countryside to its booming cities. Some think the number of these migrant workers will soon reach some 400 million souls. They have created massive new urban megaplexes like Chongqing, which now has a population of close to 30 million.

But such precipitous, rapid, and massive urbanization inevitably causes reactions. This beautifully shot short film by Leah Thompson and Sun Yunfan, below, introduces one urban “back-to-the-lander,” Ou Ning, who for all the understandable reasons has moved his family from Beijing to the countryside in the storied Huizhou region of Anhui province. The film is a lovely evocation of how urban malaise has led one city intellectual to forsake the increasingly polluted, expensive, hectic, and crowded capital in search of a quieter, cleaner, and more sylvan setting for his family.

Whether Ou will prove a harbinger of things to come in China is as yet uncertain. But what does seem beyond question is that as China’s enormous and environmentally hazardous cities grow ever larger and more polluted, Ou’s pioneering escape will become a tempting model for many others to follow. — Orville Schell

The production of the film was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Image via ChinaFile/Do not reproduce without permission.

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