China's wealth gap reaching critical level
Friday, October 07, 2005
Guangzhou, China, October 7: Eight years ago, Chen Hua thought she'd put poverty behind her when she left her remote, mountain village in Sichuan province for a factory job in China's booming Pearl River Delta.
But even in one of the
wealthiest and most dynamic parts of a country on the rise, she's finding the
Earlier this year, the garment workshop where she snipped dangling threads from clothes suddenly stopped paying wages. For several months, she and her colleagues kept working, hoping they would eventually be paid.
Then one day, the boss vanished and the factory closed.
Today, Chen, 53, hawks maps
on a bridge near the
"At least now I can stand in one place and don't have to walk around all day," she says with a stoic smile. When a policeman strolls down the ramp, though, she and the other vendors bolt the opposite way.
Fancy imported cars, five star hotels and slick malls dot Guangzhou, the hub of a region that has blossomed into one of China's -- and the world's -- main economic engines.
But Chen stands by the
train station as a reminder of one of the most dangerous features to develop on
Persistent poverty in
The public was outraged in
2003 when a driver in northeastern
The leadership in
"They have come to the conclusion that ... the regime will not survive if they don't address the growing wealth gap, and more importantly, the perception that the government only cares about economic growth and the urban rich," he said.
YELLOW LIGHT, RED LIGHT
Some have become gloriously
rich. Next week, the Hurun Report, which tracks
To be sure, tens of millions of people have been lifted out of abject poverty since the Party came to power 56 years ago.
But the wealthiest 10 per
That has left Deng's successors, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, grappling with a wealth differential that economists say is wider than when the Communist Party came to power in a 1949 revolution.
Average urban incomes last year were 9,400 yuan ($1,164) while rural income was 3,000 yuan ($372).
The newspaper of the
Communist Party's premier cadre training ground, the
"Social contradictions" are on the rise, it warned.
But some of the measures,
while lightening the burden on farmers, have bankrupted
"In poor areas, there
are a lot of conflicts between the government and the farmers," said Li
Fan, director of the World and China Institute, a private thinktank
"That means it's already a critical time," said Li.
To escape poverty, country
dwellers keep pouring off trains in cities like
Originally from the
That venture failed a few months ago, leaving the equivalent of less than 6 US cents in the pocket of the weathered man with a wiry beard and wide eyes who, asked his age, says: "over 80".
"I couldn't even
afford a steamed bun. Those cost five mao.
All I had was four," he said. "Everybody said go to
The economic boom has made
"All I want is enough money to buy a train ticket back home."