31 October 2010

The New Social Classes

The reformer
Deng Xiaoping is credited with proclaiming to the people "to be rich is glorious". Apart from the market reforms of the 70s, other meaningful reforms never materialized. While many government officials and their families have benefited immensely from the nation's expanding economy, many have been left behind to fend for themselves in a system that is highly preferential to the wealthy.The most recent example I have heard of involved several company CEOs and managers in Shanghai receiving government subsidies for private housing.

Government attempts to cool the housing market have fizzled, graft continues unabated, GDP is viewed by cadres in all provinces as the holy grail which they are to chase after at all costs and the mantra 'more, more, more' can be heard from many officials who display insatiable appetites for greater material wealth.

Though Deng's reforms have succeeded in spreading around some of the wealth flowing into the country, its overall success has been limited due to graft at the national, provincial and municipal levels. As a result, this has contributed to a growing number of instances of social injustice. One of the most recent examples is the now infamous incident at Hebei University.

This has given rise to a dichotomy that I have termed The Resented and The Resentful. These two social classes are distinctly opposed to one another. A modern illustration of these two subclasses would be a princeling and the general public. A princeling is resented for their arrogance and belief that they are above the law while the public are resentful over the perceived sense of injustice from the son or daughter of an official.

While the western version would be similar to The Haves and The Have Nots, I don't believe this western classification applies because while both rich and non-rich Americans are busy chasing after the American dream, many Chinese strive for simple justice from their courts and elected officials.

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