The unflattering image of China's wealthy (2)

09:56, May 17, 2011      

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Legitimate wealth tarnished by corruption

The unflattering image of the rich in China is mainly the result of how people perceive the wealthy earned their money. A survey by Renmin University of China showed only 5.3 percent of the thousands of respondents believed the rich obtained their wealth legally. This is often reinforced by the many media reports of bribery, stock fraud and corruption, making the wealthy the favorite punching bag of the dissatisfied.

Wei Jun, a 24-year-old man from Jiangsu Province, was sentenced to 20 months earlier this year after he smashed the window of two Mercedes-Benz in a Nanjing parking lot. He told the court that he had just been fired from a local restaurant where he earned only 1,000 yuan a month.

"Why can some people drive such good cars and I have to wander on the streets?" he asked the court. "I temporarily lost my balance,"he confessed.

"The huge income gap between the rich and poor has caused social unrest and some psychological problems," said Zhang Ming, a political science professor from Renmin University.

This opinion is echoed by Xue Yong, the author of The hatred against the rich, who wrote that historically China was not anti-rich, but uneven development and little protection for the poor are reasons for much of the public vitriol aimed at the wealthy.

Even China's much-loved scientist Yuan Longping, hasn't been spared a public bashing over his wealth. Yuan developed hybrid rice plants in the 1970s, which significantly increased yields and helped alleviate the threat of famine in dozens of countries in Asia and Africa.

Yuan was pilloried on a Web posting that reported he had bought a car for near 1 million yuan from an auto show in Hunan Province, and that he already owned seven other luxury cars.

Before Yuan was able to discount the report as false, many netizens expressed their support saying they didn't care if Yuan owned seven private jets.

A CCTV commentator noted the public's green-eyed envy of the rich doesn't extend to a man like Yuan who has made a great contribution to society and is seen as deserving of his wealth.

An official of the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce has ordered advertisers to cool it on promises of ostentatious extravagance, which was feared to be fueling sentiment against the wealthy and liable to increase public discontent.

Pan Zhichang, director of International Media Research Center from Nanjing University, said some real estate advertisements that promote a "Royal", "Aristocratic" lifestyle are bound to disgruntle average wage earners.

"Forbidding such advertising is not enough, we have to solve this deep rooted problem," said Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor from Peking University.

"Taking down advertisements won't narrow the gap between the rich and the poor," Xia said.

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