With 2007 almost at a close reform can certainly be considered as this year’s signature. It was also the catchword last year. The 17th CPC National Congress report pointed that reform has become the word of choice for our new times.
This year witnessed many steps moving up the economic ladder that have led the Chinese people toward a well-off society. A series of unofficial polls conducted by Xiaokang Magazine have faithfully reflected the changes taking place in people’s livelihoods.
This year, the economy exhibited sound momentum. The first nine months of 2007 yielded a GDP that soared up to 16,604.3 billion yuan, 11.5 percent higher than the same period last year.
China, as the fourth largest economy in the world, has recorded continuous annual growth for the last 12 years, with a two-digit growth rate for five years on end. Such speed is nothing new; the world now predicts that China will overtake Germany as the third largest economy in 2008.
This year, China’s urban and rural residents have enjoyed significant gains in their incomes. During the first three quarters, urban incomes climbed to 10,346 yuan, up 13.2 percent. Their rural counterparts earned cash flow income worth 3,321 yuan per head, an increase of 14.8 percent.
This year, more people are employed. During the first three quarters of this year, urban people received 9.2 million placements, 2 percent more than expected.
This year, social security system gathered more people under its umbrella. During the first three quarters, 308.9 billion yuan was injected into social security and employment realms, an increase of 29.5 percent. By the end of September, urban residents with minimum living subsidies had reached 22.377 million, an increase of 105 thousand people, while rural residents with minimum living subsidies reached 27.813 million.
This year, social insurance covered more people and more areas. A reform program guaranteeing rural compulsory education fund was launched across the nation together with a governmental waiver in tuition. Also from this year, the national rural cooperative medical system came into play.
But all these heartening facts didn’t agree with the polls. When respondents were asked about their standard of living in 2007, 48.2 percent said that it had increased while others thought otherwise.
When it came to personal satisfaction regarding medical care, education and housing, a majority people reported dissatisfaction.
“Do you think there is a need to give more weight to the socially vulnerable groups?” 72.6 percent of the respondents answered in the affirmative.
Why did people’s appraisal of their standard of living take a dive when the economy was on an upward roll?
The survey was conducted between last October and November while the CPI was soaring and this was the main reason for the dip in people’s satisfaction. The gulf indicated that the Chinese reform had been ushered into a new phase.
In another poll, satisfaction also dove to a lower level. People apparently pitched their expectations too high as the country experienced sizzling economic growth.
The current disparity in incomes seems quite alarming, with a relatively scanty portion of the national income allocated to a single resident’s income.
It is estimated that the has risen from 0.417 to 0.475 between the years 2000 to 2006. Moreover, the income disparity has been further enlarged as urban residents earn more than 3 times that of rural ones.
The BCG, a leading consulting company, released their latest global wealth report and reported that the Chinese mainland has 310 thousand multimillionaires. These nouveau riche, a small minority, are amassing 41.4 percent of the national wealth.
However, as people’s standards of living have become the motif of the year, the government has gone to great lengths to offset any costs stemming from reform, and to accommodate ordinary people’s needs.
To achieve this entails some big steps, including adjustment in the fiscal budget and an increase in spending to improve the average standard of living. The government should realize that more public spending is needed to represent a more widely shared division of wealth arising from the economic boom.
(China.org.cn by He Shan, December 21, 2007)