Tests for Migrants to Settle in Beijing? Chinese Reactions

Wen Guowei, Professor of Institute of Architectural and Urban Studies, Tsinghua University

From Sina:

Tsinghua Professor Suggests: Migrants Who Want to Settle in Beijing Should Take Tests


“If migrants want to get a Beijing hukou, they can be audited by examination”

Journalist: How can we construct a scientific channel [to control the influx and population of migrants to Beijing and inhibit the “ruralization” or degradation of civic behavior and norms in urban areas]?

Wen Guowei: There are many ways for this. For instance, if the migrant population wants to get a Beijing hukou, we can consider conducting audits through exams. This examination should consist of several parts, including tests of educational level, of legal knowledge, of work capability and so on. [If they want to] work in Beijing, we can also refer to international experience, establishing a “work-permit system”. where those without a work-permit are “working illegally” and dealt with [punished].

College graduates could be seen as educationally qualified; having a stable job would signify qualification of work capability. Meanwhile as city residents, some basic knowledge of laws and regulations is a must. This whole series of exams wouldn’t be measured by just the public security bureau itself with regards to whether or not you’re qualified to get a hukou but instead approved by a specialized [government] organization.

For those who already have a Beijing hukou, there still exists the problem of re-education. This includes education at school, education at the work place, education of law enforcement and the guiding role of the media. [Such continuing/re-education] must persevere, so that the urban/city residents have the character befitting that of city residents.

Even so, there will still be a group of people who do not fall into categories of management, and this group will have to be strictly managed. For those who have caused the phenomenon of ruralization [bringing rural habits/norms into the city], such as those without appropriate character [behavior as an urban resident], we must ask them to get out. Living environments where vile phenomenon has already formed should be progressively cleaned up to restore the order a city should have. Of course we cannot violently drive people out, but instead disperse them to other places according to the circumstances. When necessary, the government could also step in and build some temporary housing to solve their temporary housing problems.

Journalist: “De-ruralization” would inevitably bring about a problem, which is that the cost of living for city residents would also increase, as there is an objective market demand for small vendors and peddlers.

Wen Guowei: This is still the problem of sense. Actually everyone knows clearly that the goods offered by unlicensed peddlers are of poor quality. For example when you eat at a street-side stall, [there will be] problems of gutter oil and food additives, and everything you put into your mouth is unsafe. Those who consume these foods, most are also outside migrant populations, so should this kind of low-class health-damaging style of consumption be encouraged by our policy?

Considering the cost of living issue, at the center of our city are areas with certain historical and cultural traditions that could completely develop into commercial networks featuring century-old shops [successful businesses]. When I say century-old shops here, it doesn’t necessarily mean their prices can be raised without limit. Take the snack shops around the Huguosi Temple as an example: low prices, guaranteed quality, this can completely be achieved, and the government could also provide financial support. As long as management [of the shops] is good, and [the owners] change from an way of operating that seeks nothing but profit, the costs for this kind of shop could be even lower than the unlicensed peddlers and thus squeeze the unlicensed peddlers out of the market.

On the other hand, there are some problems with the notions of development/growth that some legitimate [licensed] time-honored shops/brands have at present, [such as] a steamed filled bun (baozi) being sold for 8 or 9 kuai, far in excess of their cost. Once such a mode of operation has been established, it would definitely push many people to buy the low-end, cheap [goods] and create opportunities for unlicensed peddlers.

In addition, the government should also make policies to guide enterprises to solve related problems. I have a friend who has a designing institute in Haikou, a company with about 20 people. Every day they cook for themselves, with one pot and one stove, the entire thing [issue of eating] taken care of, nor are the costs aren’t high, and it’s healthy/sanitary too. The problem of feeding employees is solved, virtually squeezing the market for unlicensed peddlers, which is objectively beneficial for de-ruralization.

Journalist: Besides the problem of eating, there’s also the problem of housing.

Wen Guowei: For those migrants with normal jobs, their housing doesn’t necessarily need to be multiple families living in one compound or group renting. Why do recent university graduates insist on group renting living in a single room? Can we not offer low-rent housing to these people? We could even build some collective dormitories and flats for singles, and it’ll solve the problem. We can also encourage companies to build some dormitories for their employees, such as adding light-steel structures as dormitories on the roofs of their office buildings, the provide housing for their employees.

These problems are not impossible to solve, but the relevant departments [authorities] have been slow to deal with them. I can’t help but wonder, is it because the problem is too small? That the relevant authorities have little motivation to go handle them?

Let’s take another example of seeking medical treatment that we often talk about. It cannot be solved simply by driving all the wai di ren out. But why can’t we have the medical resources of big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou spread to the other regions? Can we ask doctors in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to spend one year out of every three practicing in other regions, to help improve the level of medical care in those areas? I think doing this can blunt the problem of non-locals/outsiders excessively coming to Beijing for medical care. But still we have to ask: Who should be in charge of handling this problem?

Survey results on Sina for: “What’s your opinion on the suggestion of having people who want to settle in Beijing first take tests?”

Sina survey results on whether or not migrants should take tests before they are allowed to settle in Beijing and obtain Beijing huou (household registry).

Comments from Sina:


Oh my, with such a professor, how could [Tsinghua] still become a top university?


If Beijing requires examination, then what about Shanghai? What about Tianjin? What about the other cities? This is personal interests disguised as anti-urbanization. And what’s this about rural peasants having poor character? I think it’s you that has poor character, and your morality is even worse!


Actually, cracking the problem of Beijing’s population and traffic problem is very simple: Scatter all the top universities (especially Beijing/Peking University, Qinghua/Tsinghua University and the like) and large state-owned enterprises to third-tier small-medium cities, which will not only spur the development of small cities but also relieve the burden on the Capital, and we can avoid having to test and spend money. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?


Maybe we can have tests, but Beijing locals have to take the tests with those from outside Beijing, with those who pass getting to stay and those who don’t having to move away. It’s rare to have the opportunity to stand on the same starting line and thus have a fair competition with the people of the imperial capital!!!


First have those who currently have Beijing hukou take the exams, and those who don’t pass have their Beijing hukou revoked.


In the future, those from Beijing who go to other places should also have to take a test… and if they don’t, they can’t enter. :D


Are all eight generations of your ancestors Beijingers [locals, suggesting that most people in Beijing migrated there at one point in time and thus have no right to restrict others]???


I suggest dividing all the cities in our country into 3, 6, 9 tiers, and have all citizens collectively take tests, and classify the cities according to the scores. One small exam every three years, one big exam every five years, ten years a circle. Not only will this improve the characters/quality of the whole population, it’s yet one more channel with which government officials can make money.

What do you think? Is having a test in order to qualify for residency (or to obtain legal residence) in a certain place a reasonable policy for that place to control population and aspects of the local living environment?


Written by Tanya


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