Tania Branigan, a reporter for the Guardian who is station in Bejing, reported on the issuance of the study.
The gulf between rich and poor in China is affecting growth by deterring consumption and holding down productivity, according to a report released by the United Nations Development Programme.
It tracks the vast and increasing gaps between rural and urban areas and regions of China - warning that differences in income are matched by disparities in social welfare, education and elderly care.
While Beijing and Shanghai have reached the development level of countries such as Cyprus and Portugal, provinces such as south-western Guizhou are comparable to Namibia or Botswana.
The Human Development Report argues that pressing ahead in providing basic healthcare, education and welfare to all Chinese citizens will boost the country's economy in the face of the global slowdown.
According to the UN human development index - which measures health, knowledge and income - China has made dramatic gains for its citizens, climbing from 101st to 81st in the global rankings between 1990 and 2005.
But life expectancy in Guizhou is a decade shorter than in Beijing; child mortality in Qinghai is seven times as high as in the capital; and illiteracy in Gansu five times more common. Spending also varies widely: the average public funding rate per student for primary and junior middle schools in Shanghai was about 10 times that of central Henan province.