IN a move aimed at boosting the pace of urbanisation, China's Ministry of Construction has decided to establish more than 500 new cities, each capable of holding between 20,000 to 30,000 people. According to the ministry, towns earmarked for city status must follow guidelines covering layout, inner-city transport, sanitation and environmental preservation. Once approved for further development, the ministry said the towns would be able to take advantage of favourable government policies, including investment incentives. A local government official said the 500 sites would be chosen on the basis of their economic strength and infrastructure facilities. The urbanisation drive was made necessary by China's rapid economic growth and consequent migration to the towns of impoverished rural workers, a ministry spokesman explained. Government officials said metropolitan areas and towns had created an unprecedented number of job opportunities. For instance, it is estimated that more than a million farmers are working in big cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou. In some provinces, which have a surplus of labour, farmers are being encouraged to leave their farms and start their own businesses in the city. A recent report said more than 1,000 prosperous farmers in Zhejiang province had created a town called Longgang, by pooling funds, investing in water, road, and housing and setting up factories. The town now has a population of 50,000.