Tag Archives: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Signs Of Disharmony

One of the purposes of the Hu-Wen “harmonious society’ policy is to narrow the income gap between city and country. The gap is seen as a source of social instability and thus a potential challenge to the Party’s authority to rule.

Picking over the latest annual Social Blue Paper from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the country’s top think-tank, there are a couple of signs that the policy is off track. First, good news that GDP per capita is expected to rise, to $4,000 by the end of 2010 from $3,500 this, is tempered by a forecast that the gap between incomes in towns and rural areas would widen. Second, the CASS says that social unseat is on the rise as the country confronts more social problems than ever before. It says that resentment has been accumulating against unfairness and power abuses by government officials at various levels.

This year alone there have been at least half a dozen large-scale popular protests involving tens of thousands of people across the country such as the taxi strikes and clashes between migrant workers and their employers and that is not counting the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang. The CASS also notes that reported crime is up 15%, despite an official campaign against it.

It is unclear how much of this is a consequence of the unemployment, particularly of migrant workers, brought on by the global financial crisis, and thus temporary if the straws in the wind we see of manufactures hiring again become more substantial. However, it is not what the Hu-Wen leadership wants to be hearing as it heads into the final 18 months of the succession season.

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Young, Restless & Unemployed

It is not so much the news that rising food and property prices are causing discontent among China’s urban poor as the fact that it is being publicly admitted to. The rare admission comes from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which has been taking the pulse of daily life since the early 1990s, if without the frankness of its newest report.

However, the alarm-triggering stats in the report may not be the ones on double-digit urban inflation buried under the rosier macroeconomic ones (and the flip side of more expensive food in the cities is richer farmers in the countryside; Beijing worries greatly about the growing urban-rural wealth divide and the Academy says rural incomes rose by an estimated 8% last year, the fastest rate in 11 years).

But the Academy also notes that one in five graduates of Chinese universities last year has still to find a job. That would be a million people, a worrying number to economists if it means that a booming economy is failing to generate sufficient graduate-level new jobs, and to politicians , who won’t want well educated young people hanging around cities with time on idle hands.

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