Population, Social Issues
corrupt officials, substandard housing, petty crime, bureaucrats, large sums of money
The increasing disparity in income levels resulting from the growth in China’s economy has become a significant social problem. According to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), in 1995 the wealthiest 10 percent of China’s population received 30.9 percent of the income, while the poorest 10 percent received only 2.2 percent. Such disparities in income and wealth are found in both cities and rural areas. But the largest disparities, and the most significant friction between rich and poor, are seen in cities. The differences between those who have good housing provided by the state and those who live in makeshift dwellings or otherwise substandard housing are becoming increasingly visible. Many temporary workers do not have proper access to health care. Furthermore, they often have no access to schools, and if they bring their families to the cities, their children sometimes turn to petty crime. This activity causes friction with permanent local residents, who often complain that the temporary migrants cause all of the city’s problems. In each of China’s largest cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, the number of transient workers may exceed 1 million. This issue is becoming increasingly awkward for China, whose Communist government purports to be committed to socialist ideals of equality and sees itself as a model of modern socialist development.
A related and serious problem is the large extent of government corruption in China, which aggravates the disparities in income. Government approvals are required for everything from changes in residence to permits for building factories to exporting commodities. Therefore, government officials responsible for granting those approvals wield a great deal of power. Many bureaucrats abuse their power and expect money in return for routine approval of permits. Sometimes, payments to corrupt officials can involve very large sums of money. Government efforts to curb these practices have been generally ineffective.
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