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China’s Yawning Gap

February 27th, 2010

Several days ago, some suggested that China was on the verge of revaluing its currency. I proposed that it would not, that we should all look for another move instead:

China will announce a major shift in economic policy, and that shift will have little (or nothing) to do with the currency exchange rate. China’s economic policy shift will please the U.S. a little, while satisfying its own people more. Any new economic policy introduced will have far less to do with an attempt to rebalance the global economy. It will have instead more to do with an effort to reduce wealth disparity in China.

This is from a two-hour, online “town hall meeting” led by Premier Wen Jiabao. There’s a bit of “satisfying its own people” and “effort to reduce wealth disparity” here:

Turning to the yawning gap between rich and poor, Wen said Beijing would strive to boost wages and make it easier for migrant workers to settle with their families in smaller cities. ”If the wealth of a society is concentrated in the hands of a few people, then that’s unfair and that society is doomed to be unstable,” Wen said.

How do I do it? I honestly don’t know.

Anyway, it’s at least a bit interesting that Beijing is claiming to take an active role in increasing wages when market forces are more likely the cause. According to NYT, labor rates have been bid up as much as 20% in recent months. Seems to be happening all on its own.

**UPDATE: A number of local newspapers are pushing now for reform of the household registration system that has divided urban dwellers and rural folk, though Wen Jiabao’s government already hinted they were looking into making it easier for migrant workers to move about the country. Thought I would link to the relevant news event since this ties into new efforts to bridge the rich-poor gap in China.

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