Migrants in Nanjing: Personal experiences and social process

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Susan Borker


Labor policy, China, Rural-urban migrants, Migrants, Nanjing, Social process

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology | Urban Studies and Planning


In my study, I interviewed rural-urban migrants in a Chinese city, Nanjing. I investigated their personal experiences and thoughts, and I tried to understand why they had these experiences and developed these thoughts, using the interviews, some socioeconomic data, some data from the census, and surveys done by other researchers. I used this information to discuss whether rural-urban migration in China may cause some social changes.

The economy is the most important element that causes rural-urban migration in any country. In addition, in China, governmental policies are extremely influential. They create systematic inequality between rural and urban areas, and create a split or segmented labor market based on rural/urban status within a city. This, in turn, structures the relations between urbanites and rural migrants in the city both preventing meaningful political alliances between poor rural and urban workers in the city and causing rural workers to internalize their inferior status. Meanwhile, the Chinese traditional culture strongly affects rural people's conception about their status and fate. As a result, they tend to accept this social inequality. The rural migrants maintain an orientation towards their rural home and focus on making money and bringing it back to their rural families. They claim to have no interest in politics.

In Western academic circles and public media, rural-urban migrants in China are regarded as a group of suppressed and desperate people who threaten the reign of CCP (Chinese Communist Party). However, my study shows that, these people are neither a (united) group nor desperate, so at the present time they do not threaten the current regime.


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