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Report: Conflicting interests threaten social harmony
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To date China has succeeded in maintaining social stability and relatively harmonious social relations, but the country is facing the challenge of balancing the interests of different social groups alongside problems of economic development, according to a report issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on September 12, 2008.

The report is based on research conducted in 2006, covering 7,100 households across the country's 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

75 percent of those polled believed that society is harmonious, and 76 percent saw society as stable. 97 percent thought that stability was very important to China.

China is now experiencing a critical period of economic development, leading to a range of problems and challenges. But more than 90 percent of respondents are optimistic about the Chinese economy.

The report indicates that conflict of interests among social groups is one of the principal challenges that threaten the harmony of society. There is a general view that social interests are not well-balanced in China. 68 percent of those polled foresaw conflict between different social groups.

Asked who have enjoyed the greatest benefits in recent years, about 70 percent chose government officials, 54 percent said entertainers, 52 percent considered the biggest winners were private business owners, 48 percent said managers of State-owned enterprises, and 44 percent said technical staff.

Government officials top the list of the best-rewarded social groups due to their stable income and social security.

51 percent believed that income disparity between the rich and poor was the most prominent factor in terms of differences between social groups. 28 percent anticipated the prospect of conflict between public servants and the people.

The report established that most Chinese people believe that the rich have accumulated their wealth principally through hard work, ability, and a good education. Government officials are most likely to be considered as having gained their wealth through illegal means.

Government departments and officials are often blamed for social problems such as unauthorized charges, unreasonable compensation for land acquisition, and unfair treatment, again factors likely to cause conflict between officials and the people.

The difficulty and high cost of getting medical treatment relates not only to standards of service and lack of access for the public, but also to the organizational structure of non-profit institutions themselves. It is therefore a very significant and arduous task to establish non-profit institutions which, subject to budget and cost restrictions, could provide effective public service and are sustainable, said the report.

The report underlines that income distribution has a significant impact on the harmony and stability of society. China's Gini Coefficient of annual per capita income (a measure of income inequality) was 0.496 in 2006, and the index of per capita assets reached 0.653. According to international standards, these ratios indicate a wide income gap.

The problem of yawning income disparity has aroused complaints from the public. In particular, the problem of illegally-accumulated wealth gives rise to a sense of social inequality that threatens harmony and stability in society.

Fighting against corruption and getting rid of "gray income"should be a priority in regulating income distribution, the report said. Additionally, increasing the income of farmers and providing more job opportunities for them in non-agricultural activities are other means to narrow the widening income gap.

(China.org.cn by Yang Xi, September 16, 2008)

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