Does China have an Apartheid Pass System?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2004, July, 30 (4), pp. 609 - 629
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This article makes and defends the claim that China's contemporary household registration system can reasonably be described as a quasi-apartheid pass system. The historical and ideological underpinnings of the two systems vary greatly, and the racial core of the South African system, lacking in China, led to its eventual demise. Nevertheless, the essence of both systems lies in the use of passes to control the influx of rural migrants into urban areas, thereby buttressing cheap-labour economies. Possible explanations for this similarity are presented. Finally, it is argued that in China, as in apartheid South Africa, the pass system is associated with massive abuses of human rights, and that its retention should be opposed.
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