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Wang
May 13, 2006, 02:17
China: A Troubled Dragon

Conn Hallinan | May 11, 2006

Editor: John Gershman, IRC


The image of China in the Western press is less the dragon of the Celestial Kingdom than J.R.R Tolkien's Smaug, a beast of enormous strength and cunning, ravaging oil markets in Africa, copper ore in South America, and uranium deposits in Australia. “The world begins to feel the dragon's breath on its back,” intones the Financial Times.

Even dismissing the media's hyperbole, the creature is impressive. Since 1990, its exports have climbed 1,200%. Each year it turns out twice as many engineers as the United States. Its central bank has $710 billion in currency reserves. Its growth rate was 10.2% last quarter and has averaged 9.8% for the past 12 years. It has the biggest mall in the world.

The capitalist dragon has created great wealth and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. But the Chinese leadership is discovering a downside to this narrative, one that is generating a growing social crisis for a huge section of the population.

For all its vaunted power, the dragon is troubled.

According to the China Poverty-Relief Fund, some 30 million of its people live in absolute poverty, defined as not having enough money for food or clothes. Another 60 million make less than 28 cents a day. Income for rural Chinese—where 800 million of China's 1.3 billion people live—is one-third of those in urban areas, a gap, according to government studies, that threatens to widen over the next half decade.

The official Xinhua News reports that the top fifth of China's population corners 50% of the country's total income, while the bottom fifth takes home just 4.7%. In 25 years, China has gone from a nation with one of the smallest income disparities in the world to a country with one of the greatest.

“The income gap, which has exceeded reasonable limits, exhibits a further widening trend,” Xinhua News wrote in an editorial last fall. “If it continues this way for a long time, the phenomenon may give rise to various sorts of social instability.”

That “instability” is already a reality. Whipsawed by a collapsing social security net, a vanishing healthcare system and, until recently, a market-focused, tone-deaf government, millions of Chinese have taken to the streets. In 2004, there were 74,000 such “incidents” involving almost four million people, a seven-fold increase in less than a decade. Petitions to redress grievances reached an all time high in 2005.

The growing disparity between rural and urban income was a major focus of last month's National People's Congress, where Prime Minister Wen Jiabao committed the country to closing the gap and creating a “new socialist countryside.” He told delegates to the weeklong meeting, “We need to respect the right of the farmers to have their own livelihood. We need to deliver tangible benefits to the farmers.”

But while the new five-year plan is long on rhetoric, its spending goals are modest, to say the least. The government will pump $42.3 billion into the countryside. But as a percentage of total spending, that is only an increase of.1% over last year, and less than the government spent in 2004. It also represents only 8.9% of total government spending, in spite of the fact that tax revenues rose 20% in 2005.

The Congress did vote to phase out many agricultural taxes, along with school fees and tuition for required schooling, but those will only amount to about $19 a year, which will hardly bridge the gap. The average city dweller earns about $1,000 annually, while his or her rural counterpart makes slightly more than $300.

The state of China's once all-embracing healthcare system was also a major concern for the Congress.

The government will beef up health spending, most of it to rebuild community health centers in China's major cities by 2010. Those clinics were largely dismantled in the 1980s, a cost-cutting measure that has come back to haunt the government.

The 2003 SARS epidemic is a case in point. According to Indian journalist P. Sainath, who has reported extensively on health issues in Asia, the virus got out of hand because without clinics there was no early warning system that a health crisis was building. While closing the clinics saved hundreds of millions of dollars, in the end, SARS cost China several billion in damages to the economy and tourism.

According to a study by Asian Economic Outlook, the SARS crisis eventually cost Asian and Southeast Asian countries almost $60 billion.

The rebuilding of clinics will also make a difference in dealing with China's aging population. There are already 134 million Chinese over the age of 60, and by 2050 they will represent one quarter of the country. Not only did many of these seniors see their meager pensions vanish as state-run enterprises went bankrupt, many employers and schools stopped delivering healthcare.



Go here (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/3264) to read the rest of the article.

warakawa
May 23, 2006, 10:21
you seriously got some issues. stop posting anti china articles and get a girlfriend or something

Wang
May 27, 2006, 04:12
No, you seriously got some issues. I'm not anti china. I post news that is relevant about how the People's Republic of China is evolving.

leonmarino
May 27, 2006, 04:30
The article is not anti-China, it describes the current situation in China and the consequences of its growth in recent years.

A lot of facts and figures but the writer of the article doesn't provide a solution to the problem posed. It might be my humble reading skills but I do not get what message the writer is trying to get across; China is in trouble due to its growth, that seems clear, but I fail to see what lesson we can learn of it.

4321go
May 27, 2006, 20:41
a trouble seeker~

#1 's ,the more trouble he find ,the more happier he get. doesn't him?

osias
Jun 3, 2006, 23:57
a trouble seeker~
#1 's ,the more trouble he find ,the more happier he get. doesn't him?
Are you talking about yourself?