Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Two Faces of China

    Recently while reading the mainland China press, a startling picture of two very different Chinas emerges. The People's Daily [10 November 2016] published a report on the 'left behind' children, particularly of those in the rural areas. These are children who have been left behind by their parents, who have migrated to the cities for improving their economic prospects. The number mentioned by the People's Daily is rather large; about 9.02 million. Of interest is the fact that this phenomenon is largely concentrated in West and Central China. Of the 9.02 million children left behind, about 27.8 per cent are between the ages of 0-5 years and about 62 per cent are between the ages of 6-13. In other words, of the youngest lot very few would even know let alone recognize their parents. Some do not even have grand parents to look after them and are dependent on distant relatives. The People's Daily also estimates that about 50,000 children die each year due to accidental injury and most of them are the left behind children.
    Another startling statistic that has been published is that about 70,000 children are kidnapped annually in China by gangs indulging in illegal adoption, forced labor and often these kidnapped children are reared to become sex workers. All these heart rending stories are due to China's unprecedented and headlong march towards economic resurgence, but the cost in terms of human suffering also has been colossal. The march to becoming the world's second largest economy has not been cost free!
   Yet on the other hand, in another article the National Business Daily quoted from a report jointly prepared by the Huran Research Institute and the China CITIC Bank to say that as of May 2016 there were 1.34 million millionaires in China; up by 10.7 per cent from last year! It also quoted the same report to say that of the millionaires mentioned above about 89,000 were actually billionaires; up again by 14.1 per cent from last year. As per data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the total population of China has reached a figure of 1.368 billion, which means that the per cent age of the multi-millionaires to the total population now stands at 0.1 per cent.
    But where do most of the Chinese millionaires live? Again according to the report mentioned above, most of them now live in Guangdung province. There are 240,000 people in Guangdung so classified. It seems that Guangdung has replaced Beijing as the favored place of residence, but Beijing still retains the distinction of having the highest density of millionaires living in the city with 1.1 millionaires per 100 people! The Huran report also detected the fact that most Chinese millionaires like to keep their wealth in foreign exchange deposits, insurance products and overseas property.
   It is not for nothing therefore that there is the existing malady of rising inequality in China. The gini co-efficient of inequality for China, the internationally accepted measure of inequality within a country, was between 0.46 and 0.49 in 2007; the highest measure for any Asian country. Presently, it may even be approaching 0.61! According to the UN, if the gini co-efficient of inequality touches 0.44 danger signals for internal stability should start flashing. This income disparity is a source of discontent and social protest and this in turn leads to public cynicism that erodes the popular support for the Chinese Communist Party[CCP]. This is also the reason why the Chinese President Xi Jinping is so adamant in pushing through his anti-corruption campaign. He has also strictly forbidden the Party officials to display their wealth. It is also the reason why the Chinese budget for internal security is larger then the budget for the PLA!
    These are the two faces of China today.

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