Wednesday, April 08, 2009

China's wealth gap continues to grow

Despite the economic slowdown, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen in China. The numbers of rich people in the country grows but the number of poor increases as well. A wide gap between rich and poor makes it difficult for those in poverty to move up the scale.

From the Asia times online, writer Wu Zhong gives us the statistics of the survey.
At the other end of the wealth scale, more than 40 million farmers survived on 1,196 yuan or less last year, government figures show. Officials now admit that if the internationally used poverty threshold of US$1, or 6.83 yuan, per person per day is adopted, the size of China's poor population could exceed 100 million - that is, at least one out of 13 Chinese still live in poverty.

The wealth survey, which polled 700 respondents through face-to-face interviews or questionnaires from late December, found that the country's estimated 300,000 multi-millionaires at the end of last year possessed a total wealth of 8.8 trillion yuan, equal to 29% of China's gross domestic product of about 30 trillion yuan in 2008. The sum was also equivalent to 39.7% of the country's total household bank savings of 22.15 trillion yuan.

By contrast, the 40 million officially acknowledged poor people had only some 48 billion yuan to live on for the year.

Considering that just three decades ago all Chinese were practically equal in regard to personal wealth (or equally poor), the change is remarkable evidence of the tremendous success of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's policy of "allowing some people to become rich first".

However, many Chinese who lived through Mao Zedong's egalitarian rule are increasingly unhappy with the fast expanding wealth gap and particularly with the social injustice behind the wealth disparity. Since the Chinese Communist Party still stubbornly upholds the banner of "socialism" albeit with "Chinese characteristics", it has to make efforts to narrow the gap to calm public discontent.

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