China's urbanization rate has surpassed 50 percent, signaling that the number of urban dwellers now exceeds that of rural residents, according to a report released by the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Tuesday.
The report, named Blue Book of Cities in China, notes that in 2011, urban dwellers totaled 691 million, accounting for 51.27 percent of the country's population, and defines the country as being in the preliminary phase of a quasi-urbanized society.
Experts say the government's focus can now shift to more social issues. "China will put more effort into solving social problems such as enhancing social security, healthcare and education," Sheng Guangyao, an associate researcher with CASS, who participated in compilation of the report, told the Global Times.
"We are in pursuit of modernization, and we have reached the final stage, which is urbanization," Sheng said. "Theoretically, the 51.27 percent will help narrow the gap between the urban and the rural economies."
"When the rate was below 50 percent, urban areas could only offer rural areas limited support," Sheng added.
China's system of neglecting rural growth and supporting thriving urban areas has hindered the country's urbanization, said Sheng.
Niu Fengrui, director of the institute, told the Global Times that 60 percent of the country's population is employed outside the agricultural sector, indicating a continuing demand for urban development.
"In spite of the problems, urbanization will benefit us in the long run, since it bolsters domestic demand and helps update modern technology," Niu added.