4 Major Differences Between Rural and Urban China

4 Major Differences Between Rural and Urban China
Aug 22, 2016 By Trey Archer , eChinacities.com

4 Major Differences Between Rural and Urban China
Photo: innovateordie.com

China is a miscellaneous patchwork of Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan), Autonomous Regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Guangxi) and 25 other provinces. However, there exists a great divide within this convoluted system that may not be as defined or understood as the others. With Deng Xiaoping's motto of "Let some people get rich first"让一部分人先富起来and economic/political reforms primarily targeting large metropolitan cities, there's now a major cultural gap between the residents in urban and rural areas. And while there are always discrepancies between cities and villages across the globe, the ones in China are significantly more pronounced.

1) Crimes of passion
Rural citizens commit more crime in the name of love than those in cities. Astonishingly, from 2008-2011, over 50% of homicides in rural China were linked to romance. In a recent example, last September Zheng Lu, a middle aged male from rural Jiangsu Province, murdered nine people he suspected of having a love affair with his wife. According to China Daily, people in rural areas do not fully understand the nation's young legal system and choose personal revenge over law. This lack of education concerning legal institutions, and the violence that comes with it, has an extremely harmful effect on society.

Luckily, this scenario is not the norm for China's metropolitan cities. In developed regions, the number of violent altercations blamed on marriage and relationship disputes is significantly lower. During the same period from 2008-2011, only 15% of total homicides in Guangzhou were romantically related. In Shanghai, there were zero homicides related to romance, and just one single case of "intentional injury" between two lovers.

2) Individual or collective mentality
City residents are beginning to break from traditional values and put themselves first over the community. It's said that Westerners have an individual outlook on civil society while the Chinese take a collective approach. But in developed cities, urban China is not only adopting Western music, fashion and food with Lady Gaga, Nike and McDonalds; the individualistic "me first" mentality is also blossoming. Even President Hu Jintao recognizes this drastic transformation. Quoting from a January 3rd, 2012 New York Times article, President Hu stated in a Communist Party policy magazine that, "China must strengthen its cultural production to defend against the West's assault on the country's culture and ideology."

In rural settings where Western influence is minimal or even nonexistent, people still hold onto traditional values and put the family, village, farm and/or community ahead of the individual. One reason for this collective mentality is Confucianism. Confucianism, a major pillar of Chinese society for more than 2,500 years, stresses the importance of respecting your parents, obedience to superiors and loyalty to friends. The main goal of this ancient philosophy is to create a harmonious society through a hierarchical system where the individual takes orders from superiors, no matter what his or her preferences may be. Nowadays, keeping with tradition, important decisions like marriage are still decided within the family unit.

3) Employment
A growing proportion of China's urban graduates are landing white collar jobs in metropolitan cities and are purchasing apartments, cars, well known name brands and the latest consumer goods. These Chinese yuppies, or "chuppies," are also well educated, open minded, fluent in English, career oriented and familiar with current international events. But not every graduate makes it in the urban jungle. The "ants" – a term used to describe educated Chinese graduates working skilled jobs at very low wages – are the branch of the white collar workers who don't quite reach the level of chuppie affluence. While stats concerning chuppies are hard to come by, according to CNN, an estimated 300 million Chinese (about 25% of the total population) are classified as middle/upper class and these people make up about 50% of the total urban population.

A very large number of individuals from rural communities are classified as migrant workers or farmers. Migrant workers leave their hometowns without a college education to find blue collar jobs (usually in the construction industry) in developing cities. Migrant workers spend long periods of time away from their families, work seasonal projects around the nation and send remittances back home. Farmers, likewise, usually lack a college education and, similar to their urban counterparts "the ants," work long hours for minimal wages. Currently, 120 million Chinese (nearly 10% of the population) are migrant workers while 300 million (about 25% of the total population) are farmers.

4) Marriage and divorce
In urban zones, the notion of marriage is drastically changing. More and more Chinese are choosing their mate without their parents' counsel, marrying foreigners, or opting not to get married at all. "Flash marriages" (闪婚) – marriages between a couple who have known each other for less than seven months and lack their parents' approval – are also becoming more prevalent in big cities due to the growing Western notion of "love at first sight." Nonetheless, one in five Chinese marriages end in divorce, with that number climbing to 40% in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. And while divorce can be blamed on a variety of factors, it's said that money is the number one reason for the high urban divorce rate.

In the countryside, ancient tradition still runs deep and dominates the local culture. In ancient times, a marriage was predominately decided by families and served not only as a bond between a man and a woman, but also between families and villages. Parents today still greatly control the dating scene in rural areas and are the ones who choose, approve or veto their child's mate. Furthermore, couples tend to get married and have children at a younger age than those in cities, usually in their late teens to early 20s. But not even traditional regions can split from China's growing divorce rate. Sichuan, a predominately rural province in southwest China, had the country's highest divorce rate in 2010 with 169,294 separations. Unlike urban zones, however, divorces in rural China are not blamed on money, but rather families splitting up due to migrant workers relocating and finding jobs in different cities.

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Keywords: differences in rural and urban China traditional culture in China how China is modernizing evolving norms in China


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If l live in the rural, could l live like a king? haha

Aug 27, 2016 17:45 Report Abuse



In Shanghai, there were zero homicides related to romance, and just one single case of "intentional injury" between two lovers: in a city of 24 million?

Apr 27, 2015 19:27 Report Abuse


the good guys

There is only one china, including taiwan. For all its efforts to surround ('contain') china with military bases in all its puppet states, washington will never be able to complete the circle, and those puppet states will eventually win back their sovereignty. civil war in America will happen long before any revolution occurs in china, or asia for that matter.

Aug 25, 2012 21:21 Report Abuse



Xiao Fei..WRONG!! :( Taiwan is a FREE and INDEPENDENT COUNTRY!!
Jason..WRONG!! :(
Alex..WELL SAID!! :)

Aug 25, 2012 00:13 Report Abuse


JAY (Just Another Yangguizi)

Actually AFAIK, both the ROC and the PRC still *officially* agree that there is only one China, and that Taiwan is part of China. They (at least used to) primarily disagree on which government was the legitimate government of both.
The reality today is somewhat more nuanced - I suspect Taiwan's continued existence as a semi-separate entity (de facto "free and independent entity") benefits the PRC economically and the PRC leadership recognizes this.

Aug 25, 2012 16:17 Report Abuse



Ref item #2
About the rural popn being ignorant of the law.

I would say no more so than the urbanites. Perhaps the only way they believe that they can get justice is to take the law into their own hands. And I can think of more than one reason for this belief and lack of trust in those who administer the law in their local area.

Aug 24, 2012 01:46 Report Abuse


A. Dopey-Acrobat

the main difference is the girls from the country have darker skin, which on Asian girls is what all westerners covet.

Aug 22, 2012 20:23 Report Abuse


ray USA

i never seen so many ratings on one post. somethings fishy

Aug 22, 2012 03:48 Report Abuse


David 1

In the west the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, so what's so different about China? The communist [?] party in cohots with the rich and powerful, granting priveledge to the "lucky ones" and sod the rest.
The "party" have the registration system to stop the peasants coming to the city, the middle class city dweller look down thier collective noses at the country people.
What China needs is a revolution. Fat chance with the communist [?] party holding an iron grip with just one thing in mind, to stay in power.

Aug 22, 2012 00:24 Report Abuse



they had their revolution in 1949. they came along way from one of the poorest to the 2nd richest. they spend more money on social programs than america. we spend most of our money on defense while the people don't really get anything. the infrastructure is out dated and all the wondrous cities of the world are springing up in china. their revolution seems to be working for people just fine. they are pulling their country out of poverty are a grand scale. The usa needs a revolution because the country is going to the corporations and not the people.

Aug 22, 2012 03:26 Report Abuse


JAY (Just Another Yangguizi)

Actually, Ronald, I think the "revolution" you're thinking about was a much quieter affair that occurred gradually and culminated in the early 80s, and was largely symbolized by Deng Xiaoping rather than Mao (whose various programs, such as the Great Cultural Revolution, are hardly looked back on with nostalgia - especially by those who got scr*wed by them).

"...we spend most of our money on defense while the people don't really get anything." Yet, strangely, it's social programs and outlays (think Social Security, Medicare, and public education) that eat the lion's share of the US national budget and state and local spending! Furthermore, a large percentage of Americans are dependent on government handouts.

"all the wondrous cities of the world are springing up in china....they are pulling their country out of poverty are a grand scale."
They've certainly spent a lot on public works (so did Mr. Obama, by the way, in 2009 through a program called ARRA, which sounds a lot like 'ERROR' - which is what it was), but often this goes hand in hand with extreme authoritarianism and highly inequitable income distribution - think Indonesia during the 60s. Incidentally, several countries have modernized or built lavish capitals just in the last 15 years or so, including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan (Astana, which was a wide spot in the road by a marsh 20 years ago), and Mongolia. Then there's Dubai. Mineral wealth and petrodollars and favorable 'balance of payments' all buy a lot of nice sh*t. In the US we've shut down major pipelines, mining ventures and oil exploration thanks to the so-called green lobby, we've shut down profitable automotive companies while breaking laws to prop up Gov't Motors, and we've literally thrown money at China hand over fist as little Stevie Chu blew the taxpayers' money on companies that had already failed. B.O. spent over $5 TRILLION on his buddies and pet causes, and we are on the hook for a lot more. You want to know why the US can't afford cool stuff, you could do worse than taking it up with little Timmy Geithner, who even the Chinese don't take seriously.

On a more serious note, one reason I hypothesize that China gets away with this sort of thing (lavish public investment) is at least partly because the institutions directing the spending are able to be somewhat opaque. For better or worse, in China you don't have the dynamic of a two-party economic and political structure where each party has incentives to expose the corrupting influence of the other party. Instead what China seems to have is competition within a single-party system as a force for exposure and the occasional bout of public outrage when some local poobah goes over the top.

Aug 22, 2012 23:05 Report Abuse



Regarding difference #2, the idea that Chinese are collectivist thinkers I am certain is a complete myth. This is the most individualistic and competitive society I have ever seen.

Aug 22, 2012 00:00 Report Abuse


jason t

who cares if its written by a communist party member. If you in China then your in their system of goverment. like it or hate it but your gonna have to live with it. you like living in china don't you? you don't have any right to voice your opinion in a communist country. are u a spy? who cares if its written by a chinese, for god's sake the article is about china.

Aug 21, 2012 21:24 Report Abuse



Agreed, Allan.

"Special Administrative regions (Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan) ..."

I stopped reading there.

Trey Archer, you have a very Western-sounding name for a communist party puppet.

Aug 21, 2012 19:43 Report Abuse



Taiwan a "Special Administrative Region"? Do you work for the government?

Aug 21, 2012 18:23 Report Abuse


xiao fei

taiwan does belong to china. don't u know your history?

Aug 22, 2012 03:40 Report Abuse


Shu Lijun

Instead of just posing a sarcastic question, maybe you could enlighten us as to the truth of the situation with your historical knowledge. Sometimes it is better to win an argument with facts, educating us as to what you have learnt(B.E.) in your education system - it may convert some of us lost sheep to your way of thinking. Or as we say in the West, "Put up or shut up".

Aug 22, 2012 03:59 Report Abuse


Shu Lijun

Sorry my comment is aimed at Xiao Fei not Allan. Allan's right, hard to picture a Western person throwing Taiwan into the mix, definitely stinks of Wu Mao.

Aug 22, 2012 04:06 Report Abuse


Shu Lijun

Wow, an intellectual giant. You have to wonder if it is at all possible to have a rational discussion with Nationalistic trolls.

The majority of Chinese people are hospitable, patient and some of the best people I have ever met. I have been greatly impressed by Chinese people... until now.

Aug 22, 2012 04:15 Report Abuse



Taiwan??? china.???.its part of china and not a special administrative region..its a normal province like other provinces according to chinese constitution.

Aug 30, 2012 18:46 Report Abuse