China has long been criticized for its incredibly uneven distribution of wealth, and despite the consistent outcries for change, it appears as if things are only getting worse.
In recent years the number of Chinese millionaires has actually grown quite a bit, with as many as 50,000 more Chinese striking it rich each year. During this same time period the number of Chinese ‘super rich’, those worth more than 10 million renminbi, has also risen considerably. The trend goes on, with over 2,000 Chinese billionaires and over 100 worth in excess of 10 billion renminbi.
As hard as it is to believe, China’s super rich are steadily growing in number while the average peasant still earns less than $5,000 US dollars per year.
The rich in China get richer…
Just over 300 million people in China are living in relative luxury, while hundreds of millions of laborers break their backs every day to earn wages that leave them in abject poverty. Basically, the well to do in China are getting richer by exploiting the countries 1 billion peasants, who are forced to work long hours in horrid conditions for pennies.
Peasant workers in Kangbao County in Hebei Province are lucky if they can have some pickled cabbage and potatoes for lunch, while a couple hundred kilometers away in the Qianmen Street commercial district of Beijing, lunch in an upscale restaurant can cost as much as 1,000 renmibi, a sum which would take a peasant several months to earn.
The social demarcation is obvious in Shanghai and Beijing, as the wealthy live in upscale neighborhoods while laborers are forced into overcrowded areas, sometimes living in only a few square feet in squalid conditions.
Social Discrimination in China
The unlivable conditions and lack of consistent income has resulted in a rise in the crime rate for laborers younger than 30, says Li Shi, director of the Income Inequality and Poverty Research Center at Beijing Normal University. Peasants from rural areas are openly discriminated against, and forced to live a life most dogs wouldn’t envy. This discrimination is considerably worse in China as compared to other developing nations.
Will Foxconn change anything?
The Foxconn suicides, at least in the short term, have led to a wage hike in an attempt to quiet the outrage and keep workers on the production lines. Low wages are just one part of the problem though, as there are no labor unions to lobby for fair treatment, and a total lack of welfare guarantees like publicly funded medical care, access to education or insurance. China’s rigid household registration requirements only aggravates the situation further, as it divides the population into urban and rural households, ensuring that the concentration of power and money stays in the hands of those who need it the least.
More of the same…China still sucks!
For the time being, it seems that China will continue to be an embarrassment for the human race. As long as those who benefit from doing business with the Chinese turn a blind eye to the disgraceful treatment, human rights violations and shameless exploitation of laborers going on within the country’s borders, those in power have no real reason to do things differently. Only radical changes in public policy can begin to right the wrongs mentioned here, and at present, the outside pressure that would be necessary to force such change just isn’t there.