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English>>China Society

Grotesque gaps in income undercut social harmony

By Wan Lixin (Shanghai Daily)

15:40, October 30, 2012

A COMPREHENSIVE report in 2010 titled "China's Wealth Gap Is Testing the Limit of Social Toleration" is still compelling reading for policy makers today.

Authored by a Xinhua team, the report pointed to the danger of accelerating concentration of social wealth in the hands of the few, and the yawning gap in income across difference regions, between urban and rural residents, and among different professions.

The report cited professor Chang Xiuze from an institute under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), who revealed that although estimates for the Gini coefficient (a statistical measure of income or wealth inequality with a value ranging between 0 and 1) for China differs, the ratio given by the World Bank is 0.47, which is above the warning level of 0.4, and is climbing fast by the year.

Two figures hint at the nature of the gap: The urban residents are earning 3.3 times more than their rural cousins, and the senior executives (officials) of listed state-owned enterprises are earning 128 times more than the average wage earners.

An expert from Beijing Normal University found that in 1988 the top 10 percent was earning 7.3 times more than the bottom 10 percent. In 2007 that figure went up to 23 times.

Real estate, mine owners and securities are just some of the sectors openly known to be generating exorbitant profits.

It has been recently reported that in 2007 in Shanxi Province a state-owned coal mine valued then at 200 million yuan (US$32 million) went to private owners for 375,000 yuan. Now the mine is worth 3 billion yuan.

The report concludes that fabulous riches are being made in the nonrenewable resources sector.

In coal-rich Zuoyun County, in Shanxi Province, where per capita peasant income was below the national average, there have emerged in recent years hundreds of coal mine bosses with a net worth to a tune of hundred of millions yuan.

Real estate is another sector. We need not be surprised that in the just-released Forbes 2012 list of 100 Richest People on China's mainland, 16 are in real estate.

Another fortune list identified Wu Yajun as the world's richest self-made women billionaires with estimated personal assets at 38 billion yuan. You can bet the self-made tycoon was actually made by real estate developments.

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