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GDP Catches up at a Price

We should keep a sober mind over China's rapid gross domestic product (GDP) growth while keeping an eye on the social problems, argued an article in China Youth Daily. An excerpt follows:

An article in the China Economic Times written by two Chinese top economists drew a pretty rosy picture of China's economic outlook. They said China's GDP will soon surpass that of Britain in one year and will see an equal footing with the United States in 30 years.

In contrast, an article in Beijing Star Daily displayed a rather pessimistic view. It said that the present patient and nurse ratio of 1:0.4 is the third lowest in the world.

On one hand, China's economy is witnessing a remarkable growth. But on the other hand, such problems as insufficient medicare facilities still prevail. These two pictures reveal the genuine situation in China: the co-existence of rapid economic growth and laggard social development.

Sharp contrasts between buoyant GDP growth and slow social development are shown in numerous cases. Since China opened to the outside world in the late 1970s, its GDP has seen a giant leap upwards. However, we have to pay dearly for the fancy numbers - the natural resources, environment, credit, power and even future potential are overdrawn. This kind of resources-exhausted economic growth is named by some scholars as "lame development."

Development is the best key to solving many social problems, yet we cannot deny the fact that some other social conundrums are inherent with blind development.

Pollution is an example. We have spent 20 years and paid great price to catch up with Britain's GDP. But we cannot afford to spend another 20 or 30 years, pay any price, bear any burden, simply to be at par with United States in terms of GDP. We just do not have many rivers and land left for more pollution and misuse.

The statistics show that China's economic growth is unproportionally shared by a small number of wealthy people. Although the Chinese Government has paid special heed to narrowing the income gap between the rich and the poor, the result is still far from satisfactory.

While China is concentrating all its efforts in achieving a higher GDP, its "Gini coefficient," an internationally accepted measure of inequality, is rising quickly in recent years, edging closer to 0.5, which is widely considered alarming.

China's present situation determines that there can be no room for mistakes in our future reform.

(China Daily November 24, 2004)

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