Reuters

The majority of China now lives in cities

The most populated country in the world is officially urbanized.

China's leaders have at last announced that, for the first time in the county's history, people living in cities outnumber people living in the countryside. Urbanites account for 51.27 percent of the Chinese population (that's 690.8 million people, according to the country's National Bureau of Statistics).

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the world's most populous country's rapid urban growth is far from over: hundreds of millions more people are expected to pour into China's cities over the next two decades in search of higher paying jobs. To keep the country together, officials will have to reckon with how to build vast swaths of urban housing, sweeping transportation systems and a welfare net.

A bit of perspective on the shift:

City dwellers represented just 10.6 percent  of China's population in 1949, when the Communist Party took power, and just under 19 percent in 1979, when it launched the market reforms, according to official Chinese statistics. That means that in the economic boom of the past three decades, China has roughly matched what economic historians say took about 200 years in Britain, 100 years in the U.S. and 50 years in Japan.

Read more about the Chinese government's efforts to adapt to the country's rapidly-shifting demographics here.

Photo credit: Bobby Yip/Reuters

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