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占领华尔街与中共18大议程

(2011-11-20 06:35:07)
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杂谈

                      Social inequality on agenda of 18th Party Congress

 

   Last weekend, I was invited to give a lecture at Brown University on Rhode Island. After breakfast, I took a walk in the chilly Burnside Park in downtown Providence.

   Occupy Providence is one of about 1,000 "Occupy" protests across the United Sates and the world, part of a movement seeking socioeconomic changes, such as opposing corporate control, poverty and exploitation.

   The site has been turned into a "People's Park." Walking around the park, I saw a library, media center, a kitchen and a clinic run by enthusiastic volunteers under different tents. Some protesters were university students. Some were jobless. Some were veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some older people were reading books quietly. They smiled at me when I walked by.

   The fence that encloses the park was lined with colorful protest signs which read "Hands off state pensions,""Take your dollars out of the big banks," "Work for social justice,""Capitalism without character is corruption," "We are assembling for a redress of grievances"and  "We are the 99 percent."

   "We are the 99 percent" is a reference to the tremendous difference in wealth between the top 1 percent and all the remaining citizens of the US. But the inequality of incomes in China is no smaller than in the US.

   China now has the second largest economy in the world. But China's Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, is approaching 0.50, up from around 0.28 in 1978, and among the highest in the world. 

   According to a 2009 UNDP report, the ratio of income between the richest 10 percent and the poorest 10 percent was 6.9 in Germany,15.9 in the United States.According to Li Shi, a professor at Beijing Normal University, the income of the top 10 percent of the richest Chinese in 2007 was 23 times that of the poorest 10 percent, while in 1998, the top 10 percent were only 7.3 times richer. The per capita income of urban residents is 3.33 times that of rural dwellers. People in the coastal areas make twice as much as residents living in the western provinces.

   The fruits of the country's growth are increasingly concentrated among a small minority of the population, who are the ruling elite in banks, in business, in media industry, in universities and in the upper echelons of the government.

   If we follow sentiments on Weibo, China inequalities are making the country angry. Wealth concentration seems to be getting out of control. Ideological extremist groups and hate groups of differenct colors are also discussing about a kind of Occupy movement in China.

   On the eve of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2007, US scholar Susan Shirk published a book China: Fragile Superpower, in which she wrote, "The more developed and prosperous the country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel."

   Today, the Party is preparing its 18th National Congress next year. It seems that the CPC is more upset than ever by the dichotomy between rich and poor, which poses a serious threat to its legitimacy. 

   In 1949, the Party gained legitimacy through setting a development goal of making people wealthy and the nation strong. Mao Zedong stressed high accumulation, low consumption, and giving priority to heavy industry, resulting in increasing disparities between urban and rural areas.

Deng Xiaoping introduced market mechanisms by breaking up the state monopoly, allowing private sector of the economy. Since 1978, Chinese people have experienced a change of upward social mobility in which almost everyone became better off. But Deng emphasized speed of development, advocating some regions and some people getting rich first and concentrating on the development of coastal regions, resulting in polarization of wealth and greater regional disparities.

   It has been acknowledged worldwide that China has been transformed from a planned economy to a market economy, from a rural society to a metropolitan society, from an extremely low-income level to a middle-income level. But shifting from being a middle-income country to a high-income one is the challenge that confronts us now.

   Chinese intellectuals and think tanks are predicting that a new development strategy would emerge with the coming 18th Party Congress. It is believed that the 18th Party congress will announce a course of action for the next five years. I hope the country will take a strategy of "People First" by investing more money in human development, such as tackling an aging population, public health, rural education, environmental protection, housing for low-income people.

   Like the phrase "We are the 99 percent" which has become a unifying slogan for the Occupy Wall Street movement, "People first" can become a unifying slogan for the 18th Party Congress.

 

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