Chinese Regime Tasks Business Executives With Solving Its Poverty Problem
Annie Wu, 12 Jan 18
       

People eat dinner on the streets of a migrant village on the outskirts of Beijing, on August 17, 2017. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

As social scientists will tell you, an uptick in poverty often leads to more crime and unrest.

In its history, the Chinese Communist Party has been especially wary of potential social turmoil that could undermine its rule: see its brutal suppression of student democracy activists at Tiananmen Square in 1989, or its internet and media censorship apparatus wired to detect dissent against the Party.

Hence, Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) has been throwing around “lifting people out of poverty” as his catchphrase. He repeatedly referred to the idea in his recent New Year’s speech, and in his address to Chinese Communist Party members at the critical conclave, 19th National Congress.

In 2012, when he first came to power, he spoke of his goal of turning the whole of China into a “xiaokang” society by 2020—a society where people lead comfortable lives with their material needs met.

According to World Bank data, about 493 million, or 36 percent of China’s population, live on $5.50 a day or less. Accomplishing Xi’s China dream is easier said than done.

People play cards in a migrant village on the outskirts of Beijing on June 20, 2017. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

In Western societies, reducing poverty is a complex, multi-faceted issue. Research organizations have recommended investing in early childhood education, increasing employment opportunities in high-skilled jobs, and offering child care subsidies or tax credits for families with children.

Though the World Bank notes that the lifting of political restrictions on economic activity has led to millions escaping poverty in the past three decades, in its “China 2020” report it warned about rising income inequality between urban and rural areas that could hinder efforts at reducing poverty.

Enlisting the Rich to Help the Poor

With China’s large debt and slowing economy, the central authorities are not keen on solving poverty on their own. The regime has instead enlisted the country’s wealthy to lend a hand. Last year, the regime’s white paper on “poverty reduction and human rights” praised the state’s efforts in getting big conglomerates to raise money for poor villages.

At the World Internet Conference held in Zhejiang Province in December, a panel was organized with the country’s biggest tech companies, including Alibaba, JD.com, and Ant Financial, to partner them with 13 impoverished prefectures and counties. Their strategy for lifting poor villagers out of poverty was providing them with internet access and teaching them how to be tech-savvy.

A woman cooks in a communal kitchen in a migrant village on the outskirts of Beijing, on September 7, 2017. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

Philanthropy is now mandated for rich entrepreneurs. The Chinese regime is not shy about its intentions; in an editorial titled “creating a structure for the state and the market to alleviate poverty together” published in the state-run newspaper, the Study Times, it promoted using “market mechanisms” to help the poor and demonstrate the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Another editorial, by the state-run Global Times, highlighted the responsibility of China’s internet giants to take up the mantle of “social stability”: a euphemism for stamping out public discontent and protests.

Boys play cards at night in a migrant village on the outskirts of Beijing on September 7, 2017. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

“These companies should use their own skills, capital, talent, management capabilities, and other ways to support the country’s economic development and political stability,” the editorial read. Social instability would spell trouble for the Chinese Communist Party, which rules by exacting control over its citizens.

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