The Unequal Distribution of Wealth in China

Luxury goods are gaining popularity

The unequal distribution of Wealth in China is a problem to which Chinese authorities must pay attention. As China is getting rich, Beijing must insure that growth reaches everyone and not continue to be felt only among a fraction of the population

The primary motivation for China’s economic reforms was to increase economic growth and to raise living standards after nearly twenty years of stagnation. While the question whether the reforms have been successful in raising the standards of living remains debatable, they have certainly created a recently expanding phenomenon: The unequal distribution of Wealth in China.

One of the major elements of economic inequality is the detachment of oneself from his/her surroundings: Moving from a courtyard to an apartment building means that one is less familiar with his/her neighbors, driving a car instead of taking the bus or the subway means that one meets less people during commute, and so forth. Although these scenarios are normal by products of economic growth, the rise of a new social class in China, known as the “富二代“ -- the “second generation rich”, might indicate that the connection that the elite maintains with the rest of society is looser in China than it is in other countries.

“Second generation rich” are the result of the unequal distribution of Wealth in China. For the most part, they are the children of parents who accommodate their every desire and fulfill their every whim: from purchasing luxury sport-utility vehicles to holding extravagant events.

Two separate incidents that occurred last week help strengthen the speculation that the policy of distributing Wealth in China might have been wrong and that as a result the social distance between the rich and the poor has increased. In the first incident, a man picked up his daughter from a local university in Shandong province with a helicopter. The incident was observed by many students who were on campus at the time, and they were not shy about displaying their disbelief from the unusual event.

In a different incident in a Shanxi province wedding, luxury cars, big houses, fancy jewelry and other goods comprised the main attractions of what seemed to be one of the fanciest weddings that has ever taken place in China. Here are some pictures from the event:

Unequal Distribution of Wealth in China

While some view the “second generation rich” as young, spoiled kids who lack proper education, some do not consider their attitude a problem. Laowaiblog met with a young Chinese woman named Heidi who expressed her opinion about the distribution of Wealth in China: “In China, people have never had the sums of money that they have today, so it is understandable why some have the need to show their new made wealth.” Despite the incidents of the past week, Heidi does not seem to be concerned with the expansion of this phenomenon: “Although many disapprove of this type of behavior, I am of the opinion that the majority of Chinese do not hate the wealthy. Many, however, expect them to contribute more to society than those who did not benefit from the new economic conditions.”

Heidi sees the unequal distribution of Wealth in China as a normal by product of the fast economic growth that has been prominent here for the past 30 years: “In many developed countries the situation is quite similar, for example in the United States or in Russia. This is a natural process of economic growth, in which a new social order is being created. With that being said, I think it is important to maintain strong educational culture at home, so kids can learn how to behave properly – regardless of money that they may or may not posses.”

Although Heidi is not concerned, many are nonetheless worried that the unequal distribution of Wealth in China is creating a feeling of distance within the Chinese people. Heidi thinks that although the situation can get worse, it is unlikely to occur anytime soon: “I personally feel that respect is something that has been missing, and I hope that those who have gotten rich thanks to the economic reforms are willing to give something back to society. That way, mutual respect can be gained. If they choose not to do so, however, we might have to deal with a bigger social gap among people in our country.”

As wealth in China has been distributed unevenly in the population, some people have gotten rich while others have not. The government has yet to officially declare the “second generation rich” as a problem that needs treatment, yet it is clear that proper education and more discipline are needed to remind young adults that while they are out shopping for jewelry or for hand bags, most people their age are still struggling with everyday life.

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About the Author

Lior Paritzky is the Editor in Chief and Manager of Laowaiblog, an internet platform that provides opinion and views about social phenomena in modern China. Look for Lior on Twitter: Liorpari