Impact of Urban-rural Return Migration on Rural Economic Development in China----With Implications for Vietnam

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Geographical Sciences

Abstract

Migration is an essential element in the livelihoods of households in Least Developed Countries as a diversification strategy. However, the poorest families at origins are left out and failed to benefit from it as migration remains a selected process. Despite China's economic achievement over the past 30 years, poverty still persists, especially in remote rural China. Urban-rural return migrants who are equipped with accumulated human, financial, and social capital through their migration experiences are capable of acting as agents of change to reduce rural-urban disparities, facilitate rural economic development and help rural poor to exit poverty.

This research will investigate impact of urban-rural return migration on rural economic development in China and how results are transferable to China's neighbouring country Vietnam. It will investigate ways that returnees contribute to local rural economy, their decision-making process, and key institutions and policies affecting their entrepreneurial activities. Variations between groups, across time and places will also be examined using a retrospective longitudinal multi-level approach.

The proposed research addresses the first two overarching research questions. It aims to evaluate ways and effectiveness of returnees' agency role in reducing rural-urban disparity and helping rural poor, mainly the non-migrant households, exit poverty. Eighteen hundred returnee households are to be sampled from 120 villages, 40 counties in 8 provinces with different levels of economic development to ensure that key local conditions, including institutions and policies, conductive to returnees' economic success will be identified. This will help us understand actors that promote such conditions and investigate the possibility and the scales to create such conditions elsewhere.

It will be carried out in five phases. First, thorough documentary and archival research will be conducted. Second, microdata of Chinese 2000 and 2010 census will be analysed to examine the changing patterns of return migration and its relationship with place characteristics. Third, a survey of 1800 returnee and 600 non-migrant households will be conducted. Fourth, in-depth interviews of 80 successful returnee entrepreneurs will be carried out to investigate further key institutions, policies and local conditions conductive to their economics success. Finally, collected data will be analysed and findings will be disseminated to both academic and non-academic audiences internationally.
The empirical findings will enrich our understanding on conditions and institutional context that stimulate rural development and help the rural poor exit poverty. It provides great implications for policy makers in China on how to effectively incorporate return migration and foster returnees' entrepreneurial activities in its strategic guidance for rural development and reducing rural-urban disparities.

In a global context, the results will have wider relevance for other developing nations such as Vietnam, which is replicating China's development model successfully and also facing similar issues in rural deprivation and rising rural-urban disparities. Various engagements and activities are proposed to ensure the transfer of the project results to Vietnam.

Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to enhance the robustness and completeness of the research results. A primary data set will be created suitable for multilevel modelling through complex and innovative research design techniques and sampling methods. The datasets will be fully documented and deposited at the UK Data Archive for further exploration.

The proposed research has both an international and a multidisciplinary scope. Six migration experts with extensive research experiences from different disciplines from UK, Hong Kong China and Vietnam form a strong and fully qualified team to successfully carry out this project.

Planned Impact

Four levels of beneficiaries can be identified for this proposal:
Project partners
Wider academic community
Central and local governments and policy makers in China and Vietnam
Local rural residents in survey counties
Project partners: the investigating team is comprised of academics staffs and their research assistants from six institutions from UK, Hong Kong, China and Vietnam. Their research expertise and knowledge will benefit directly from the outcome of the project. The employment of seven young research assistants contributes greatly to capacity building especially in China and Vietnam.
Wider Academic Community
Given the multidisciplinary and international nature of the project, different academic disciplines in various countries will benefit from the outcomes. For academic communities (in geography, demography, economics, political science and other disciplines) that are interested in the impact of migration and its counter flow on development, our study will enrich the understanding of the role of return migrants in rural development in developing countries and how institutions and policies affect such processes. Also academics working in a wide range of disciplines with an interest in the migration/return decision making process, entrepreneurial activities, (measuring) rural deprivation, spatial scale, and research methods will benefit from the proposed research. The results will be published in both English and Chinese academic journals
Central and local governments in China and Vietnam
Policy makers from central government departments and think tanks such as the Department of Agricultural, Department of Development and Reform, and the Development Research Centre of the State Council along with local officials on how to better incorporate return migrants into their strategic plans to stimulate rural industrialization and small town led urbanization. State and local governments in Vietnam will also benefit from this research on how to effectively use institutions and policies to attract successful migrants back to their hometowns and foster returnees' entrepreneurial activities and ultimately help reduce rural poverty. We will work closely with government officials and policy makers from both countries from the early stage of the project.
Local rural residents in survey counties
Rural residents in the survey counties will benefit from better implemented policies and programmes informed by project results to effectively utilize return migration for rural development and poverty reduction.

Various activities and strategies will be employed to increase the likelihood of impacts:
Key government officials, policy makers, agencies, organizations from China and Vietnam will be identified and contacted from an early stage of the project to ensure their close involvement with the project.
A two day workshop will be organized in Beijing for stakeholders in the middle of the project. Delegates from Vietnam will be invited.
A two day workshop will be held at an exemplary county targeting at local officials from surveyed counties in China later in the project. Local officials from Vietnam will be invited.
A two day workshop will be held in Vietnam to disseminate final results to Vietnamese stakeholders towards the end of the project.
A website will be online after 3 months from the inception of the project and after completion of the project as a showcase for the project progress and main results of use to the wider audience. Main results will also be published online in Chinese and Vietnamese.
A pairing scheme will be launched for knowledge transfer on return migration and development at local level
If the project is successful further funding will be sought from professional institutions to expand the pairing scheme and its long term development.
Conference and journal papers publication
Reports at different stages of project will be produced and publicised in three languages

Publications

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Qiang Ren (2020) Impact of Occupation and Family Burden on Psychological Adjustment in Returning Migrants in Global Clinical and Translational Research

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Zhu Y (2016) Urban oriented livelihood strategies of return migrants (in Chinese) in Chinese Social Science Today

 
Description The key findings from this project include that return migrants have the capacity to contribute to rural development by bringing back financial capital, skills and new technology, market connection, entrepreneurship, new ideas, norms and practices, and creating job opportunities for non-migrants. However such impact is greatly affected by the local socioeconomic and institutional contexts. When such contexts are not favorable, their impacts are rather limited. Local government plays an important role in supporting and facilitating returnees' entrepreneurial activities. However, structural constraints can sometimes limit such effort even when relevant policy is in place. Most returnees choose to return to the county proper or nearby town/township which helps with urbanization at the local level. Comparing to China, the impact from return migrants on rural development in Vietnam is rather limited. It is mainly caused by the different levels of development between the two countries as well as by the different levels of policy and government support for business creation in rural areas.
Exploitation Route Policy makers in China and Vietnam at both national and local levels will be more informed in terms of how to maximize the development potential of return migrants. Thee results will also be useful to those who study the relationship between return migration and development in other developing countries.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

 
Description The findings have been used to inform rural development policies in Vietnam. Since two member from the Vietnam Parliamentary Committee have been heavily involved in our project. They helped to disseminate some of the project results in the national Parliamentary meeting when they were making the new five year plan for rural development in Vietnam.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Mr. Nguyen Van Tien, the Vice Chairperson of Vietnam Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs and Prof. Dang Nguyen Anh, the Vice President of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (project collaborator) discussed results from our project workshops to a Vietnamese National Parliament meeting on the next five-year strategic plan of rural development in Vietnam. They briefed the Parliament of the workshop and the experiences from China which caused a heated discussion at the meeting. It is expected that the results from our workshop may help to inform Vietnam's new strategic plan on rural development.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Title Qualitative data 
Description We did 70 in-depth interviews in Anhui, and Hubei with government officials, returnee entrepreneurs, and women returnees. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Three papers are in preparation based on the data 
 
Title Survey Data 
Description • The survey was conducted by the project team between April and August 2015 in seven provinces: Guangdong, Anhui, Hubei, Henan, Hunan, Sichuan and Guizhou. Stratified sampling method based on economic statistics was used to select three counties from each province. Within each county, five villages were sampled based on their geographical location and distance to the nearest town/city. The process ensured that the sampled villages represented varied distance to a town/city and a wide geographical spread within the county. Within each village, 15 return migrant households were sampled and one returnee from each household was interviewed. We first asked village cadres to recommend up to five returnee entrepreneur households and interviewed them. We then used snowballing technique to sample the rest returnee households. Returnees who returned to nearby towns or cities within the same county were also included in the snowballing process. Five non-migrant households were also sampled from each village by snowballing method and a randomly selected non-migrant from each household was interviewed. In total, 1634 return migrants and 585 non-migrants were interviewed in the survey. Retrospective information is collected at both individual and household levels. The returnee questionnaire mainly focuses on their migration experience, migration and return decision making, and post-return economic engagement and entrepreneurial intention and activities. Non-migrant questionnaire centers on their economic activities, engagement with businesses set up by return migrants, direct and indirect benefits from return migration and perception of migration. Village level information was also collected from local cadres. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Two students have used the data set to finish their Master thesis. One student is using the data for her PhD thesis. In addition to the listed output. Three more papers are in preparation 
 
Description "Experience Exchange between China and Vietnam in Migration and Development" in Vietnam 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The second workshop "Experience Exchange between China and Vietnam in Migration and Development" took place in Halong Bay on 18-19 June. The attendees included returnee entrepreneurs from Anhui, China, scholars and local government officials from both countries. Returnee entrepreneurs shared their stories in setting up their businesses after return and experiences and challenges in running their enterprises. Local officials discussed the role of government in facilitating entrepreneurial activities and creating employment opportunities for non-migrants in rural areas. Scholars debated and synopsized the experiences from both countries from policy and development perspectives.
Two attendees of the workshop Mr. Nguyen Van Tien, the Vice Chairperson of Vietnam Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs and Prof. Dang Nguyen Anh, the Vice President of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences had the opportunity to attend a Vietnamese National Parliament meeting on the next five-year strategic plan of rural development in Vietnam the day after the workshop. They briefed the Parliament of the workshop and the experiences from China which caused a heated discussion at the meeting. It is expected that the results from our workshop may help to inform Vietnam's new strategic plan on rural development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description A two day international conference on "Migration and Development: examples from China and Vietnam" held in Bristol 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A two day international conference was held in Bristol in the summer of 2017. Delegates from UK, Vietnam, US, China, and Hong kong attended the conference. The delegates included academics, politicians, professional practitioners and postgraduates. Delegates discussed key research findings from the project in the context of the main theme of migration and development in China and Vietnam. Various dialogues and debates took place around some of the key topics. Comparisons and contrast between China and Vietnam were made in terms of their respective development in relation to migration, particularly focusing on institutions and policies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited as a Workshop Director at the upcoming international conference, InterAsian Connections VI: Hanoi (December 4-7, 2018). 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I will be directing the workshop on China's OBOR Initiative
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Migration and Development in China and Vietnam Workshop in Beijing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The first workshop "Migration and Development in China and Vietnam", was held at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing on 14-15 May 2016. The workshop brought together 30 scholars and experts in migration studies, government officials, and representatives of civic organisations from China, Vietnam, USA and UK. Prof. Cindy Fan, UCLA's Vice Provost for International Studies and Mr. Nguyen Van Tien, the Vice Chairperson of Vietnam Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs were two of the keynote speakers. The attendees shared ideas and experiences on the current trend, challenges and opportunities faced by internal migration in China and Vietnam, especially the impact of household registration system, land system, and social security system on migrants' integration into the host city and their return decision-making and post-return economic activities. A panel discussion also took place on how China and Vietnam can learn from each other's experience in tackling similar institutional issues faced by internal migration and how to best influence policy making. Early research results from the ESRC-DFID project including the motives and process of return migration, the impact of return migration on local urbanisation, entrepreneurship among returnees, and the imprint of returnees on the rural economy and non-migrants, etc. were also shared and discussed at the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.chinajob.gov.cn/InnovateAndServices/content/2016-05/16/content_1189148.htm