Return migration in China: a case study of Zhumadian in Henan province

Zhihua Xu, Yungang Liu, Kaizhi Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the causes and process of return migration from the coastal region to the inland provinces in China since the early 2010s, based on the case study of Zhumadian city in Henan Province. Surveys administered to both rural migrants from Zhumadian to Shenzhen and recent returnees to Zhumadian are presented. Industrial relocation and the development of inland provinces trigger the current wave of return migration. Family obligations, better prospects of the hometown, and barriers to settle in Shenzhen because of the hukou system are the principal reasons to return. Most of the migrants return to work in a factory or start a business. Some migrants purchase apartments in Zhumadian as a prelude to returning and starting a business at a future date. Returnees prefer settling down in urban areas rather than in their rural origins. In light of the empirical findings, the authors argue that return migration will ease the mismatch of labor supply and demand between the inland and coastal provinces, such that the Lewis Turning Point has not been reached yet. The continuing process of rural migrants returning to and settling down in Zhumadian suggests a way to achieve some of the goals in China’s new-type urbanization plan, as local governments may address the two major challenges of the plan, namely, local job creation and financing for increased demand for public services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-140
Number of pages27
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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