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Workers sit at the back of a truck as it travels along a road near the village of Donghuluyu, on the outskirts of Beijing in this file photo. Although China had more city dwellers than rural residents last year for the first time in history, some former rural residents are electing to return home as living standards improve in the countryside.

DAVID GRAY/REUTERS

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A woman collects corn stalks for burning in a field next to the village of Donghuluyu, on the outskirts of Beijing. Since 2006, the government has poured trillions of renminbi into rural infrastructure.

DAVID GRAY/REUTERS

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Rural peasants are shown raising their own pigs on a commune in this 1961 file photo. Today, 95 per cent of Chinese villages have roads, electricity, running water, natural gas and phone lines, according to the government.

Hsinhau News Agency

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Workers hang from the side of residential buildings under construction in the Chinese port city of Tianjin Sept. 11, 2012. As the number of adults flowing into the work force slows, China can no longer attract manufacturing with the promise that an unending pool of rural migrants will keep its wages down.

DAVID GRAY/REUTERS

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Children look out from a window of their classroom at a rural primary school in Min county, Gansu province. The school, with five teachers and 102 students, is on a mountain more than 2,000 metres high.

SHENG LI/REUTERS

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Children walk to a rural school in Min county. In 2011 alone, the average annual income of a Chinese rural resident increased nearly 18 per cent to 6,977-renminbi ($1,071). But economists say the biggest contributor to rising rural incomes has been remittances from migrant workers who move temporarily to the cities to work in factories, restaurants or on construction sites.

SHENG LI/REUTERS

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Women members of Chouchuang Commune in Kiangyin county, Kiangsu province, pull carts filled with earth along wooden rails in 1961.

Frederick Nossal/The Globe and Mail

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Migrant workers eat their lunch on a footpath outside a construction site in central Beijing. As many as 51.27 per cent of 1.347 billion mainland Chinese lived in towns and cities at the end of 2011, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.

DAVID GRAY/REUTERS

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A farmer pulls a cart laden with corn stalks through the village of Xishaoqu, on the outskirts of Beijing, in this file photo.

DAVID GRAY/REUTERS

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