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Don't hate the rich, be one of them
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16:49, April 02, 2009

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By Li Hongmei People's Daily Online

Despite the turmoil in financial markets and global economic downtrend, the Chinese rich will go on accumulating wealth faster than ever anticipated. According to the private wealth report released some time ago that the number of China's high net worth individuals is growing by leaps and bounds on a year-on-year basis. The concept of so-called high net worth individuals refers to those with net assets of at least US$1m excluding their main home.

The survey conducted by China Merchants Bank and Consultancy Bain & Company indicates that as many as 320,000 Chinese individuals will possess at a minimum 10 million yuan (US$1.46m) each in disposal assets as of the end of 2009. A total of 8.8 trillion yuan in disposable assets held in the happy few rich hands is already tantamount to the 29 percent share of the country's GDP total of 30 trillion yuan.

The upward revision in the wealth forecast not only reflects China's generally effective fiscal and monetary policy in recent years, but also showcases that the Chinese wealthy, the enterprising minority of the population allowed by the policy of reform and opening up to get rich first, have now become more adept at shifting their funds out of troubled markets into more profitable areas. Additionally, wealth creation in China, meanwhile, has benefited from the country's closer integration into the global economy.

Admittedly, in a still developing nation like China, the general public seems to grudge accepting the fact that a rising number of high net worth individuals have emerged and the wealth they controlled has been dramatically expanded. Influenced by the decades-long planned economy, the Chinese have been accustomed to the Chinese-style egalitarianism, shaping the stereotyped mindset of 'eating from the same big pot.' Hence, a great many people cannot rub off the deeply ingrained prejudice against wealth, as they were taught that there was something wrong inherently with being rich.

If viewed through the prism of social development, one can easily understand why wealth used to be so despised in traditional Chinese society. China is typically an agricultural country, and in its time-honored history, the theory of 'attaching great importance to agriculture but restraining commerce' has been hammered into the people's mind, well and truly. With time, 'poverty mentality' would come into being, which encourages the thinking that if you have more, then I must have less. Even worse, now that many of the Chinese have grown up exposed to similar thinking and similar teachings, they tend to form an abnormal psyche of 'hating the rich.'

Misconducts of some affluent people as well as the illicit channels they used to accumulate their wealth will undoubtedly add a further irritant to the discontent of the less fortunate. Such terms as 'corrupt rich,' 'stinking rich' and other much harsher things are often used by ordinary Chinese to describe those 'wealthy but bad guys' in their eyes.

More often than not, many of the newly emerged rich people are still magpies, good at hoarding but poor in management. And they have little sense of charity, donation and social commitments, this being yet another reason to make them scorned by the public. Some even believe that the rich got that way by stepping on the poor. The rich, however, can hardly convince the less fortunate majority that it isn't wrong to be wealthy. So in a society with the rapid economic growth and increasingly enlarged circle of affluent individuals, it is quite desirable to cultivate a wealth culture, which can, for one thing, gradually change people's thought process and make them believe everybody can escape poverty and get rich through efforts.

Secondly, a sound atmosphere in which wealth creation is encouraged will also help people retrain their mind, pushing out the old 'poverty mentality,' and replacing it with a 'wealth mentality.' If more people are devising ways to create wealth, in a long run, it will contribute to building a harmonious and mass affluent society, as more people will have the ability to help the less fortunate.

A society without producing wealthy people is never progressing on the healthy track. Indeed, even the Bible says 'money is the root of all evils.' In this light, a highly commercialized society is not a noble one, either. But it is noteworthy that wealth in itself has nothing to do with guilt or innocence, and what matters most is how to manage it. Nevertheless, it will be beneficial to the general good of a society that, instead of bitterly envying the rich, more people are learning to become one of them.

The article represents the author's view only. It does not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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