China: To get rich is glorious


While many economists spend hours gambling on whether China’s recent economic slowdown may result in a hard landing or not, or whether the real estate bubble can explode, China’s real problems seem to be of a different nature. Poorly understood Deng Xiaoping’s famous sentence “To get rich is glorious” appears to have been successfully embedded in the Chinese psyche.
But to the point that in present China, and specially in the big cities, the visitor can feel a growing anxiety for power, fame and wealth, and how citizens embark on a daily crusade to achieve them at any cost, and show everybody else that they made it, generally in a boombastic and tasteless way.
When material success is the only focus, people tend to forget about other qualities that makes us proud to be human: Politeness, respect for others, honesty, compassion,… Those words mean little in modern China, comrade Deng.

This obsession is currently developing big risks for the country, and the key to tackle them is political rather than economic:
  • Corruption, and the income inequalities derived from it.
  • Social unrest. A massive migration of people from the countryside into China´s cities takes place, following the dream realized by the previous generation of having a better life. People arrive to cities with big expectations, and this may lead to disappointment as success is something that cannot be taken for granted, and wealth is limited. A sense of frustration will accumulate in the people who cannot make it.
  • International conflict risk, as the anti-Chinese sentiment abroad grows. China cannot be proud of having many friends abroad. Not only in the countries where it has enterered abruptly hungry for their natural resources, like many countries in Africa, but also its neighbours, claiming territories with most of them (Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, India, Taiwan).

While the individual Chinese keep busy in the glorious task of getting rich, the rest of the world awaits for a change of policies that will help to tackle these risks for the country and its economy, from which the rest of the world already depends on.

More information:

You´ll never be Chinese. or why Mark Kitto is leaving China after a big part of his life living there.

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