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Thursday, October 14, 2004


One of the world's 'most unequal' societies

Joseph Kahn's NYT article, The Great Divide/Managing Rebellion, follows the 10 year struggle of three Chinese peasants who vowed to fight to the end against Communist Party officials who imposed illegal taxes and fees on them and their families. They endured a violent police crackdown, got tax refunds, and even won the right to govern their own village. But power, vanity and the guile of the Communist Party tore them apart.

Kahn also documents the current plight of the working people in the Peoples Republic of China:

Since China's peasantry began falling far behind the urban elite in the go-go 1990s, the countryside has been a font of unrest. It is the rare village, among the 700,000 across China, where residents are not protesting something - corruption, high taxes or fees, confiscated land, punitive birth-control policies ...

China has not yet figured out how to make its capitalist-style economic growth egalitarian. It has become one of the developing world's most unequal societies ...

The government uses China's 800 million farmers to provide grain, labor and capital for urban development. State banks take deposits in rural areas but make loans almost exclusively to richer ones. The authorities pour resources into prestigious urban projects, like the $1.24 billion Shanghai spent to build a state-of-the-art Formula One racetrack and play host to the European event through 2010.

Villages rarely get such help. All farm families, regardless of income, pay land and agriculture taxes as well as fees for social services, often exceeding what wealthier urban residents pay ...

Partly as a result, the authoritarian government has learned to live with seething social discontent. It has become practiced at defusing confrontations that threaten one-party rule ...

Meantime, the average wealth among the PRC's top 100 entrepreneurs reached US$297 million, according to Shanghai-based accountant Rupert Hoogewerf, compiler of the China's 100 richest people list for the sixth straight year. Hoogewerf's research team found that China's wealthiest are in retail, information technology and investment.

A quarter of the entrepreneurs listed are believed to be Communist Party members and 38 have been co-opted into either the legislature -- the National People's Congress -- or the advisory body, the People's Political Consultative Conference.

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