ECONOMISTS predict China will overtake the US to become the world’s largest economy by mid this century, if its unprecedented growth continues with the same pace as in last few decades.
Alongside the economic boom, questions have also been raised as to whether this prosperity has reached the citizens in far flung villages.
Many believe China’s ability to redistribute current wealth and prosperity will determine whether it grows to those lofty expectations being placed on it, or destabilises due to economic disparity.
The economic miracle that has swept much of China is yet to reach regional areas. Given most of its citizens live in rural towns and depend on agriculture for their livelihood, there is already a growing inequality.
Across China living cost have skyrocketed while wages still remain very low.
Workers in big industrial in cities like Shanghai and Beijing get as low as CNY1200, or around AUD $185 a month, which has already created class division based on economic ability.
And so, the rich are becoming richer while poor are becoming poorer.
According to 2009 estimates, around 36 percent of China’s 1.5 billion people live on around $2 a day.
While this is a massive reduction from over 85 percent in 1981, the growing middle class in the country has diverted the economic growth to be urban centric.
This notion has in fact challenged the communist doctrine, committed to social justice and socio-economic equality.
The fruit of economic growth is primarily controlled by the majority Han Chinese, while others remain marginalised.
This injustice has in some instances, invited tensions among ethnic groups who raise their heads for justice and equality.
The government’s efforts so far, as seen from outside, have been to suppress these voices rather than addressing their concerns and demands.
Last year, China announced, for the first time, to invest more on internal security compared to external defence.
It is an indication that China has greater threat from within than outside that might invite political instability and social disharmony.
China has learnt the power of internal rebellions from Middle East countries where rulers have been toppled.
At the same time the emerging powerhouse contemplates its internal stability, recession in the world’s economy hit the Chinese market.
After the EU, China’s largest economic partner, plunged into economic chaos, the country was forced to seek out alternative markets for its production – eventually deciding to look internally.
This potential internal market had been largely ignored by the Chinese government for many years, that is until now.
Contrarily, chief of programs and regional cooperation unit of the Asian Development Bank’s Resident Mission in China, Jeffrey Liang, said China’s 30-year reforms could be broadly characterised as a process of unleashing market forces, and reshaping the force of social justice to maintain its socialist beliefs.
Social characters of the Chinese society have not been limited only to the political sector.
Capitalism has overtaken the economic policy of the country.
Gradually, political leadership has started acknowledging the need for political and social liberalisation. However, this does not necessarily mean China will accept a multi-party system in near future.
At the central level, the communist party has begun to realise the fact that its policy of strict orientation of law might pose a threat to its own future.
This was reflected in a recent policy reform announcement, aimed at harmonising social conflict and maintain social stability.
It is now just a matter of time before we see if these announcements will trickle down to the local level, where authorities act tough against anyone raising questions about the conduct of the government and party leaders.
Economic growth alone cannot stabilise a society that has grown under strict control and command of a single political power.
As it continues to experience unparalleled growth, the fruits of this growing economy must benefit all citizens.
Every Chinese national must come under the umbrella of popularly proclaimed socialist principles of social justice and equality.
In the late 1970’s Deng Xiaoping realised that communist economic policy would not benefit the nation and its people, but will this ever be said of its current leaders?
If nothing else, it is time for the new generation of Chinese leadership to realise that dissidents and voices against government conducts are not always rebels and separatists but a collective approach of the people seeking greater share of the nation’s fortune, equal treatment and demand to live a dignified life.
Published in Our World Today