Poverty, Inequality and Stability

By Yiping Fang

A recent new item at Bloomberg states, that,  The income gap between rich and poor in China has now surpassed that of the United States.

A common measure of income inequality almost doubled in China between 1980 and 2010 and now points to a “severe” disparity, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. The finding conforms to what many Chinese people already say they believe — in a 2012 survey, they ranked inequality as the nation’s top social challenge, above corruption and unemployment, the report showed.

In US, Poverty or Inequality has increasingly getting to the center of political debate in recent years. In a recent blog post by Professor Peter Marcuse at Columbia University, he said,

The language in the slogans used to address what most see as the basic social problem in the United States varies significantly. The key terms run from “war on poverty” to “ladders of opportunity” to “upward mobility” to “fight against inequality.” President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York in his inaugural address as Mayor of New York City called on the City “ to put an end to economic and social inequalities,”  President Obama before his second inaugural wanted to make inequality the “defining issue” of his second term,  but that language changed to creating “ladders of opportunity” in his State of the Union address.

On the contrary, when we know that China’s income gap is surpassing that of the US, how come there is not much in discussion other than the ‘urbanization policy’?  The recent policy made a new focus on ‘human centered’ development, which shows that the central government is aware of the amount of social problems that the fast economic development can bring. Although there are ideology and political system differences that pushed China adopted a totally different mechanism to deal with what the outcome of increasing inequality – the instability: through higher control. The origin of a stable society is its satisfied residents. How to make poor people happier, different countries adopted different strategies.

The social democratic welfare state in western European countries, think poverty is just someone’s bad luck. Therefore, they deserve to be helped by others. The tax system redistribute money from the rich to the poor.  In US, the Obama government attempts to create a better safety net including the universal health care plans, however, since Americans mostly think the poor is poor because they are lazy, the implementation of his policies have been not really easy.  In China, the one party government chose to stop the complains from the disadvantaged group. The fast economic development has prompted the government to spend a huge budget on keeping the stability of the society through surveillance and censorship. Why not use this money to create social safety net?  If someday we can see that the government spending on domestic control is dropping and on social security is increasing, we know that China is on the right path trying to solve the inequality challenge.

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