828cloud

Data, Info and News of Life and Economy

Tag Archives: Common Prosperity

China’s Path to Common Prosperity Puts Pressure on Private Enterprise

Jane Cai wrote . . . . . . . . .

With wealth inequality worsening amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the world’s rich are under pressure to show their generosity.

Most famously, Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos were called out by the UN World Food Programme’s director David Beasley, who said rich people like them should donate a fraction of their wealth to help fight starvation.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

In China, entrepreneurs are scrambling to lavish tens of billions of yuan towards President Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” drive – a new initiative to reduce economic and social inequality, led by the country’s technology gurus after a turbulent year which included antitrust investigations, tightened data security scrutiny and massive fines.

Xi spelt out his “common prosperity” vision at a meeting with the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs in August, in which he said “tertiary distribution” was one of the basic systems to address the yawning wealth gap and encouraged high-income earners and companies to “give back more to society”.

The concept of tertiary distribution was first coined by Peking University economist Li Yining in the 1990s and refers to philanthropic activities – donations, charities and volunteering – which take place after the other forms of wealth redistribution through incomes and taxation.

While it was mentioned in the party’s 2019 and 2020 plenums, and appeared in the country’s 2021-2025 economic and social development blueprint released last March, it generated little attention until Xi made his public call in the summer.

Since then, Chinese entrepreneurs have been busily setting aside special funds for the common prosperity programme, lending financial support to the leadership’s top concerns: education, health care, poverty alleviation, and so on.

The outpouring of benevolence and generosity can undoubtedly promote the spirit of philanthropy, but it has also raised doubts about whether policy-driven charitable donations can be effective in helping to reduce wealth inequality.

“Once the Chinese government has made it clear that it requires big corporations to donate or else, big corporations will continue to do so until it becomes clear that such donations are no longer required,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS University of London’s China Institute.

“Donations are made first and foremost for their self-preservation. What and how the donations are used are secondary to the donors,” Tsang said.

The Chinese government started to tighten its control over the dynamic internet sector last November, when the initial public offering of Ant Group – an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group – was halted at the last minute. Later, as an industry-wide monopoly probe kicked in, Alibaba was slapped with a record US$2.8 billion fine after it was found to have abused its market dominance. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Other casualties from the unprecedented clampdown included games publisher Tencent, online food delivery company Meituan, e-commerce platform Pinduoduo and ride-hailing app Didi. All were fined or had deals terminated for violations of antitrust or cybersecurity laws.

Ernan Cui, an analyst with Gavekal Dragonomics in Hong Kong, said many people working in China’s internet companies believed Xi’s call for more to be given back to society was directed at them. “Feeling the political pressure, technology billionaires have already boosted their charitable donations this year,” she said.

Last year’s total cash donations by the 100 entrepreneurs on Forbes’ China Charity List amounted to 24.51 billion yuan (US$3.8 billion), a 37 per cent surge on the previous year. The tech industry, with donations of 7.8 billion yuan – 32 per cent of the total – ranked as the country’s most charitable sector.

In the first eight months of this year, five of China’s richest tech billionaires have pledged at least US$13 billion from their personal or corporate fortunes to charitable foundations and initiatives.

Brock Silvers, chief investment officer with Kaiyuan Capital in Hong Kong, wondered how long this generosity could continue before investors looked elsewhere for predictable corporate profitability.

“Chinese corporate support for social initiatives is a serious concern for Western investors. Despite the likely positive impact of the initiatives, billions of dollars are nonetheless being siphoned from shareholders, seemingly without much regard for their interests,” he said.

To soothe these jitters, various party and government organs – from the National Development and Reform Commission to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – have clarified that China’s approach to “common prosperity” is not a Robin Hood-style redistribution and said charitable donations will be conducted voluntarily.

However, entrepreneurs from outside the internet sector said they were feeling the same pressure to donate and fall in line with the national goal.

Tom Wang, 45, co-founder of a medium-sized manufacturing company in the eastern province of Jiangsu, said he had donated a total of 1 million yuan to several projects so far this year. “I can’t say I was forced. We entrepreneurs are invited to chat with local officials monthly. When you are publicly asked whether to donate or not, you cannot say no. They give you face by summoning you,” he said.

“I’m glad for doing good deeds – funding public libraries, helping people affected by floods, etc. All levels of governments have been setting up charity organisations in recent years, making it easier for us to make charitable contributions. However, the air is like you don’t have good conscience if you say no. I feel a little uneasy under the pressure.”

Min Zhou, director of the Asia Pacific Centre at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), follows global Chinese philanthropic activity and said the recent trend of charitable donating from the country’s business sector was driven primarily by government policy – making it hard to predict if the momentum would be maintained in future.

“Usually for companies, charitable donations are a form of investment with an expectation of returns, such as tax benefits, goodwill, publicity, etc. Since the current trend is driven by a powerful state, the risk may be high, possibly leading to asset transfer and even company closedown,” she said.

“At the moment, there is a lack of a well-established policy framework including tax incentives and well-developed civil society, such as independent non-profits and foundations in China, that help sustain the trend in the long run.”

While independent foundations are the predominant model in the United States and Europe, government-linked foundations are more common and active in China, especially in recent years as non-governmental organisations have come under heavy scrutiny as Beijing has tightened control over the private sector.

China passed its first charity law in 2016, providing a tax credit for businesses making charitable donations and waiving corporate income tax on donations of up to 12 per cent of profits. In the US, corporations can apply up to 25 per cent of their taxable income as cash contributions to eligible charities.

The rapid development of online donation platforms has made it much easier to donate money in China, but the government could do even more to encourage donations, according to Katja Levy, a research fellow at the University of Manchester and co-author of the book Charity with Chinese Characteristics.

“Simplifying tax deductions for donors and increasing the deduction rates for charitable giving would be one way. The nationwide introduction of property or estate taxes could also encourage more charitable giving,” she said.

“The risk of too much government involvement is, of course, that the people and companies forget why they should donate and that they stop immediately once the pressure stops.”

The eastern province of Zhejiang – home to a slew of the country’s most successful private companies – was picked as the pilot region for the common prosperity goal – deemed crucial by the 100-year-old Communist Party for its rule into the next century.

Dozens of Zhejiang party cadres posed in September for a ceremony to mark Donation of One Day’s Salary. They were led by provincial party chief Yuan Jiajun, inserting yellow envelopes into a red donation box in front of Zhejiang Online’s camera.

For David Zhou, 48, who has a trading company in the province, the pressure to contribute has been turbocharged by Zhejiang’s role as the demonstration zone for common prosperity.

“Local government officials are actively promoting charity donations. Under such circumstances, companies have to show their support to the initiative by making donations and prove their loyalty to the party,” he said.

“My business is not good this year and the burden is heavy to contribute to employees’ social welfare. Anyway, I’ve donated hundreds of thousands of yuan this year for various social causes.”

George Magnus, research associate at Oxford University’s China Centre, said: “Social programmes will of course benefit from receipt of donations, but philanthropy, even in the US, is a relatively small proportion of GDP, and doesn’t address important structural determinants of income and wealth distribution.”

“There’s certainly a political benefit in demonstrating to citizens that private firms and billionaires are being made to pay to good causes, but it’s really no substitute for proper policymaking,” he said.


Source : Yahoo!

A History of Common Prosperity

David Bandurski wrote . . . . . . . . .

alk of wealth redistribution is in the air in China. And two words, “common prosperity,” uttered by Xi Jinping earlier this month at a meeting of the senior commission responsible for economic coordination, have condensed hopes and fears over the changes to come.

The phrase “common prosperity,” or gongtong fuyu (共同富裕), was given prominence in the media coverage that attended the August 17 meeting of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs ( 中央财经委员会). Both the headline of the official Xinhua release coming out of the meeting and the lower-third text during the evening broadcast of CCTV’s Xinwen Lianbo (新闻联播) included the newly significant words, imbedded in the longer phrase “promoting common prosperity in high-level development” (在高质量发展中促进共同富裕).

As Bloomberg noted in a recent report on “common prosperity,” however, Xi Jinping’s use of the phrase has soared this year, well before the August meeting, reflecting his stated commitment to addressing income disparity in China, which has come with efforts to restrain “unreasonable income” and to encourage the super-rich to give back to society.

Bloomberg’s conclusions on the basis of Xi’s speeches are borne out again when we look at use of “common prosperity” in the CCP’s official People’s Daily newspaper. The graph below shows the number of articles in the newspaper since January 2020 that use the term “common prosperity” in the headline.

But the phrase “common prosperity” is much older than the recent wave of attention might seem to indicate. So where does the phrase “common prosperity” originate within the history of CCP discourse, and what can this history tell us about the present struggle to define the direction of China’s development?

Collective Resources for Common Prosperity

The phrase “common prosperity” first appeared in the People’s Daily on September 25, 1953, as the paper published a list of 65 approved slogans for the commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the founding of the PRC. Slogan number 38 was less a slogan, in fact, than a lengthy spill of exclamations:

Male and female peasants! [We must] work to increase production and save! [We must] work for the fall harvest, reducing losses and doing everything possible to enlarge the harvest! [We must] work at autumn planting, preparing for winter-time production, striving for a rich harvest next year! [We must] work on water conservation, on plowing and sowing deeply, on improving seeds, increasing fertilizer accumulation, and reasonable fertilizer application to increase yield per unit area! . . . . Men and women of the agricultural production mutual support teams! Men and women of the agricultural production cooperatives!

United together, [we must] bring into play the spirit of collectivism, improving productivity, increasing production of grain and other crops, increasing income, striving for lives of common prosperity, according to the principles of willingness and mutual benefit . . . .

The first article using “common prosperity” in a headline in the People’s Daily was published on December 12, 1953, part of a series in the paper called “Promoting the General Line to the Peasants” (向农民宣传总路线). The choice before the people was simple, it argued. There were just two possible paths forward. One was capitalism, described as “a road of a few getting rich, while the vast majority are poor and destitute” (资本主义的路是少数人发财、绝大多数贫穷破产的路). The other was of course socialism.

The article, “The Path of Socialism is the Path to Common Prosperity” (社会主义的路是农民共同富裕的路), made clear that “common prosperity” could only happen through collective ownership, meaning that the resources of production – including land, large farm equipment, major livestock and so on – were held in common. By the end of 1952, land reforms in the young People’s Republic of China had nearly been completed, and preparations were being made in the leadership for the nation’s first Five-Year Plan, modeled on the planned economy of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

While the main focus on the First Five-Year Plan was to be on industrialization, the CCP also sought to transform the agricultural sector. Collectivization was the order of the future, beginning with the reorganizing of Chinese society into mutual help teams. “When the means of production are publicly owned, there will be no more exploitation of people by people,” said the People’s Daily article. Common prosperity, therefore, meant that resources were held in common.

Therefore, the development of mutual aid teams and cooperatives can not only avoid division among the peasants and avoid the path of capitalism, but can also enable peasants to achieve common prosperity step by step and finally reach a socialist society.

On December 16, 1953, four days after the above-mentioned article, the CCP released its “Resolution on the Development of Agricultural Production Cooperatives” (关于发展农业生产合作社的决议), which is often cited as the origin of the term “common prosperity” in its earliest, Maoist, understanding.

Overcoming Egalitarianism

The 1950s dismissal of capitalism as “a road of a few getting rich” when it came to the question of “common prosperity” was turned on its head in the late 1970s, as Deng Xiaoping came to power and pursued a new economic development strategy, “reform and opening,” or gaige kaifang (改革开放). The changes that came in the wake of the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee in December 1978 brought about a radical rethinking of the notion of “common prosperity” that in fact encouraged “a road of a few getting rich” as a means of enriching all.

The theoretical basis of Deng Xiaoping’s approach to regional economic development was that “common prosperity” could be reached by allowing certain regions and groups of people to get rich first. This idea was summed up best in the phrase “permitting a few peasants to get rich first” (允许一部分农民先富起来), which allowed more industrious and better-connected households to accrue wealth rapidly. Various permutations of this phrase can be found in the official press from around 1979, referring first to “peasants” (农民) and to “commune members” (社员). The phrase became popularized internationally in reference to “people” only after Deng told visiting New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange in March 1986: “Our policy is to let some people and some regions get rich first, in order to drive and help the backward regions, and it is an obligation for the advanced regions to help the backward regions.”

The link between “get rich first” and “common prosperity” was there from the very beginning of the debate over the substance of reform and opening in the late 1970s.

The first mention of the “get rich first” concept in the People’s Daily came on February 19, 1979, in an article to the right of the masthead that reported the remarks of the top leader in Gansu province, following the “good policies” of the central leadership. The leader was reported as having told a group of commune members shortly after the Spring Festival that certain highly productive members “can get rich first, taking first steps forward in agricultural modernization” (可以先富起来,在农业现代化上先走一步).

An article on page one of the People’s Daily on February 19, 1979, right of the masthead, discusses the policy of letting some peasants “get rich first.”
The change in policy was reportedly welcomed by some. “This idea was accepted by more and more teams and became the guiding idea for some team cadres and masses as they made plans and introduced measures to increase productivity in the spring production,” the article said.

But the more controversial aspects were plainly visible in a second article appearing on page two of the same edition of the paper. The article, bearing the headline, “A Portion of Peasants Getting Rich First Should Be Encouraged” (一部分农民先富起来应受到鼓励), sought to argue through the restrictions that had been placed on production in the name of socialism, and to dispel fears that changes in the system of wealth distribution meant a return to capitalism.

After a political potshot against Lin Biao (林彪) and the then much-derided “Gang of Four” (四人帮), the article rejected outright the previous notion of “common prosperity” as spelled out and practiced in the Mao era. “What was originally intended to guide commune members down a road to ‘common prosperity,’ in the end made a rich team poor, and then poorer and poorer,” it said.

An article on page two of the People’s Daily on February 19, 1979, at far left, says some peasants should be encouraged to “get rich first,” and rejects the previously defined path to “common prosperity.”
Far from marking a return to capitalism, empowering the individual forces of production could lead, the article said, to greater wealth for all. The alternative was an empty political devotion to principles of collectivism that dragged everyone down (to paraphrase).

We engage in socialism, not to limit or refuse to meet the needs of individuals, but to constantly improve and enhance the needs of the material and cultural life of the working people. That practice of talking only emptily about politics and shutting up about the material interests of the people is in no way a principle of socialism.

The article suggested that one of the chief problems limiting progress toward prosperity was the failure to recognize that there were in fact gaps in income distribution among peasants in the socialist era. The “Gang of Four” had “used restrictions to keep rich teams down, so that they could not step forward,” thereby depriving socialism of its vitality. Restrictions had been carried out in the name of egalitarianism (平均主义), which was now, clearly, to be a dirty word:

First of all, [we must] acknowledge [income] gaps, oppose egalitarianism, and allow and encourage the allocation of more to members of advanced teams with higher collective income, allowing them to live better, and to take the lead for poorer teams, serving as models and allowing poorer teams to be encouraged and see hope.

Once the “Gang of Four” had been smashed, said the article, communes had begun to “correct the egalitarianism of equality between those who work more and those who work less” (纠正干多干少一个样的平均主义).

Such opposition to egalitarianism, while upholding the wealth-generating vitality of the individual, was part and parcel of the effort in the early reform period to reframe Chinese socialism and set the country on a new path of development that could lead to a “common prosperity” re-defined. All of these concepts could be seen readily in an article appearing on April 15, 1979, in the People’s Daily, bearing the headline: “A Few Getting Rich First and Common Prosperity” (一部分先富裕和共同富裕). The article laid out the CCP’s new approach to “common prosperity” in clear terms:

Our Party’s leading of the peasants along the path of socialism is about ‘making all rural people achieve common prosperity.’ Allowing some peasants to get rich first is a practical policy to achieve common prosperity.

我们党领导农民走社会主义道路,就是‘要使全体农村人民共同富裕起来’。允许一部分农民先富起来,正是为了达到共同富裕的一项切合实际的政策。

The previous notion of “common prosperity,” panned as a legacy of the period when “Lin Biao and the ‘Gang of Four’ ran amok,” was a stultifying egalitarianism. “[If] we practice egalitarianism, artificially limiting wealth in order to safeguard the poor, taking from the wealthy to make amends for the poor, ‘eating from a big pot of rice,’” the article said, “then the hope of reaching common prosperity under socialism can only be a flower in the mirror, or a pie in a picture.”

A People’s Daily article in December 1979 (共同富裕不是平均富裕) was even more explicit in its drawing of lines: “Socialism is not egalitarianism, and common prosperity does not mean equal wealth,” it said.

Re-redefining “Common Prosperity”

Understand the above history, and Deng-era criticisms of “pie in a picture” notions of egalitarianism, and you can begin to understand the anxieties arising in China today around the re-surfacing of the notion of “common prosperity” over the past year. Deng Xiaoping enabled and empowered new forces of practicality and productivity that led China into an era of unprecedented growth, creating substantial wealth through much of Chinese society.

So Xi’s recent emphasis on wealth redistribution, and his re-opening of the question – visible throughout the Party-state media – of how to promote “common prosperity,” naturally begs the question of whether, and to what extent, he plans to unravel the support for private enterprise that has marked the reform era. Is he a “pie in a picture” idealist, determined, as some investors fear, to drag a vibrant private sector into an ideological campaign for social values over commercial ones? Is he promoting a new egalitarianism?

A Xinhua News Agency special on August 21 bears the headline: “How to Promote Common Prosperity? Here Are the Deployments the General Secretary is Making.”
“Chinese experts have increasingly expounded upon the idea of common prosperity in the media, while Chinese firms scramble to join in the ideological edification,” analyst Sara Hsu wrote recently in The Diplomat. “Whether China’s flourishing private sector can continue to grow under such a heavy hand has yet to be seen.”

Nikkei Asia wrote on August 18, in an article headlined, “Xi Moving Away From ‘Get Rich First,’” that “President Xi Jinping has called for stronger ‘regulation of high incomes’ in the latest sign that a 10-month campaign targeting China’s largest technology companies is rapidly expanding to encompass broader social goals.”

It was concerns like the above, responding to the historical baggage of “common prosperity,” that prompted Han Wenxiu (韩文秀), executive deputy director of the General Office of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission, to speak to the issue at a briefing in Beijing earlier this week held by the Central Propaganda Department to promote a published volume called The Historical Mission, Action and Values of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党的历史使命与行动价值). At the briefing, Han sought to allay fears that efforts to tackle inequality might stifle the economy and discourage entrepreneurialism and investment.

“Common prosperity means doing a proper job both of expanding the pie and dividing the pie, on the foundation of the comprehensive building of a moderately prosperous society, energetically promoting high-quality development,” Han said. Invoking Deng’s language about letting a few “get rich first,” he emphasized:

[We] must encourage hard work to get rich, entrepreneurship and innovation to get rich, and permit some people to get rich first, and after getting rich helping others to grow richer. [We] will not ‘kill the rich to help the poor.’

要鼓励勤劳致富、创业创新致富,允许一部分人先富起来,先富带后富、帮后富,不搞 ‘杀富济贫.’

Echoing the language from the late 1970s that rejected egalitarianism as a value inhibiting development, Han described Xi’s concept of “common prosperity” as “not a pure and simple egalitarianism, but a common prosperity in which there is still some disparity.” This in turn was echoed by Xinhua News Agency in an English-language release yesterday in which it stressed that “common prosperity is not egalitarianism.”

Casting about for a scapegoat for what was clearly also a serious internal messaging problem, coming in conjunction with its recent string of sweeping purges of large private enterprises in China, the Xinhua release pointed a finger at reports outside of China, stressing that common prosperity was “by no means robbing the rich to help the poor as misinterpreted by some Western media.”

But what “common prosperity” really means for Xi Jinping and the current leadership of the CCP is a question that will have to remain open for now. There can be little doubt that the changes suggested by the leadership would require, at the very least, as Professor Pan Helin (盘和林), argues in today’s China Youth Daily, require “a change in people’s ideas of self-interest.” And in the absence of a vibrant civic space, such changes to the ideas that underpin society are a difficult, and potentially intrusive, proposition. As with the development of this phrase in the past, the meaning of “common prosperity” will become clearer in future rhetoric as well as in future practice.


Source : China Media Project

Common Prosperity Key Trait of Socialism

Li Yiping wrote . . . . . . . . .

At the 10th meeting of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs on Aug 17, President Xi Jinping said “common prosperity” is an essential requirement of socialism and a key feature of Chinese-style modernization, and emphasized that the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government should adhere to the people-centered and high-quality development model in order to realize common prosperity.

But the top leadership’s stress on common prosperity has prompted some to ask whether China is preparing to crack down on the private sector and re-adopt egalitarianism to “rob the rich to give to the poor”. The answer is a firm “no”, for the development of the private economy is also necessary to realize common prosperity.

Private enterprises have made great contributions to China’s economy since the launch of reform and opening-up more than four decades ago. Since then, they have contributed to 60 percent of the country’s GDP growth and 70 percent of technological innovation, and accounted for more than 50 percent of the tax revenue, 80 percent of urban employment, and 90 percent of the new jobs.

As such, China has no reason to crack down on private enterprises. Instead, it aims to keep increasing national wealth and narrowing the income gap between the rich and the poor. Besides, President Xi has repeatedly emphasized the importance of boosting the private economy.

So why talk about common prosperity?

First, the CPC’s original mission is to work for the welfare of the people. And we should know that poverty is not socialism, and to develop socialism, it’s necessary to help the Chinese people attain prosperity.

Second, common prosperity relies on high-quality economic growth, and history shows that the pursuit of egalitarianism without sustainable economic growth usually leads to common poverty. Therefore, the top priority of the leadership is to spur economic growth.

Third, apart from personal income, another striking feature of common prosperity is public welfare provided by the government, including education and medical care, and creating equal opportunities, so everyone can get a fair shot at success.

Like many other countries, China, too, has income inequality. Since the launch of reform and opening-up, efficiency in productivity and economic governance has been prioritized over equality to promote economic growth and eradicate absolute poverty. The shift to socialist market economy from planned economy has significantly boosted productivity and made China the world’s second-largest economy.

Yet the country’s rapid economic growth has also widened the development gap among regions and between rural and urban areas.

Also, people have formed some wrong ideas about the outcomes of reform. For example, some people wrongly believe that reform was implemented to reduce the size of the State-owned enterprises, and push some not-so-successful SOEs into the rat race before they were strong enough to compete with others in the market. In fact, such endeavors in the past caused the loss of State assets and a small group of people accumulated huge amounts of wealth, which widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

The distribution of wealth should be more even and equitable. But in some areas, that has not been the case. Correspondingly, we are yet to make a clear distinction between productive and unproductive labor. By distinguishing between the two and rewarding them accordingly, we can boost the real economy and prevent the formation of bubbles in the booming e-economy.

Capital always seeks more profits so it can improve its competitiveness, which in turn spurs innovation and boosts economic growth. Although this process can widen the income gap, it should be accepted as long as that gap is within a reasonable range, because it creates wealth and jobs.

Moreover, the increasing share of the financial sector in economic growth should boost the real economy and raise productivity, but that has not necessarily been the case. Given its fast and high rate of return, the financial sector has been attracting more and more investments, not all of which flow into the real economy. And although this can boost GDP growth, it contributes little to the increase in wealth while fueling speculation, which is harmful to social development.

However, China can realize common prosperity through scientific policy design and institutional arrangements. But for that, it needs to adhere to the labor theory of value, which means determining the economic value of goods or services by the total amount of socially necessary labor required to produce them. Hence, distinguishing between productive labor and unproductive labor is necessary to strengthen the real economy.

It is also important to increase the income of workers, raise the proportion of remuneration in the primary distribution of wealth, and ensure wages grow in tandem with the overall economic growth. Plus, there is a need to appropriately reward people who make vital contributions to the overall health of the economy and society such as scientists and researchers in basic science.

The Aug 17 meeting also pointed out that it is necessary to correctly handle the relationship between efficiency and fairness; build a foundational system with arrangements for coordinating and supporting primary distribution, (secondary) redistribution, and tertiary (re) distribution of wealth; increase the adjustability and precision of taxation, social security, and transfer payments; expand the size of middle-income groups as a proportion of the population; increase the income of low-income groups; reasonably regulate (adjust) high incomes; and prohibit and suppress illegal incomes.

But fair distribution, redistribution and tertiary (re) distribution can be ensured only through the collaboration between the market and government. In socialist market economy, the market plays a decisive role in the allocation of resources. Yet in negotiations, capital has the upper hand over labor, so the government has to intervene to strike the right balance between the two. The government also needs to create an environment in which everybody will have equal access to public services and get equal opportunities to climb up the social ladder.


Source : China Daily

China and Common Prosperity

Michael Roberts wrote . . . . . . . . .

Back in May the Chinese government set up a special zone to implement ‘common prosperity’ in Zhejiang province, which also happens to be the location of the headquarters of several prominent internet corporations– Alibaba among them. And last month, China’s President Xi Jinping announced plans to spread “common prosperity”, heralding a tough crackdown on wealthy elites – including China’s burgeoning group of technology billionaires. At its August meeting, the Central Finance and Economics Committee, chaired by Xi, confirmed that “Common Prosperity” was “an essential requirement of socialism” and should go together with high quality growth.

Over the past fortnight, the tax administration pledged to crack down on tax dodgers and fined Zheng Shuang, one of the country’s most popular actresses, $46m for tax evasion. The Supreme Court declared the 72-hour work weeks common at many private-sector companies to be illegal. And the housing ministry said on Tuesday that it would cap annual residential rent increases at five per cent. And a new layer of officials has been arrested for corruption.

Also, the government is moving to restrict domestic companies from listing on US stock exchanges, in a move threatening to restrict the growth of tech firms that had come to symbolise record Chinese economic growth rates and the emergence of rich company bosses. The years of unbridled speculation by billionaire privately owned companies in league with various local and national officials to do what they want, including usurping state control of the retail banking system, are over.

Billionaires in general, and the mega-wealthy beneficiaries of the tech industry in particular, are now scrambling to appease the party with charitable donations and messages of support. Nasdaq-listed e-commerce website Pinduoduo saiid earlier this year it would donate its second-quarter profit and all future earnings to help with China’s agricultural development until the donations reached at least 10bn yuan ($1.5bn). The move prompted its shares to jump by 22%. Hong Kong-listed Tencent, reading the same signals from Beijing, set aside 50bn yuan for welfare programmes supporting low-income communities, bringing this year’s total philanthropic pledge to $15bn.

The announcement of the ‘common prosperity’ plans was preceded by the arrest of Hangzhou’s (Capital of Zhejiang) top official Communist Party Secretary Zhou Jiangyong by anti-corruption officials. It is rumoured his relatives had been making themselves rich with investments in local internet stocks.

The crackdown on the tech giants and the attempts of the billionaires to gain control of China’s consumer retailing and banking sectors has quickly smashed the hopes of foreign investors too. The Chinese tech sector explosive stock prices have been reversed.

The professed aim of Common Prosperity is to “regulate excessively high incomes” in order to ensure “common prosperity for all”. And it is well known that China has a very high level of inequality of income. Its gini index of income inequality is high by world standards although it has fallen back in recent years.

The gini inequality measure is used to measure overall inequality in incomes and wealth. In wealth, gini values are much higher than the corresponding values for income inequality or any other standard welfare indicator. China’s inequality of wealth is lower than in Brazil, Russia or India, but still higher than Japan or Italy.

In my view, there are two reasons why Xi and his majority in the CP leadership have launched the ‘common prosperity’ project now. The first is the experience of the COVID pandemic. As in the major capitalist economies, the pandemic has exposed huge inequalities to the general public in China, not just in income but also in rising wealth for the billionaires, who have reaped huge profits during COVID while the majority of Chinese, especially middle-income groups have suffered lockdowns, loss of income and rising living costs. The share of personal wealth for China’s billionaires has doubled from 7% in 2019 to 15% of GDP now.

If this were allowed to continue, it would begin to open up schisms in the CP and the party’s support among the population. Xi wants to avoid another Tiananmen Square protest in 1989 after a huge rise in inequality and inflation under Deng’s ‘social market’ reforms. As Xi put it in a long speech in July to party members: “Realizing common prosperity is more than an economic goal. It is a major political issue that bears on our Party’s governance foundation. We cannot allow the gap between the rich and the poor to continue growing—for the poor to keep getting poorer while the rich continue growing richer. We cannot permit the wealth gap to become an unbridgeable gulf. Of course, common prosperity should be realized in a gradual way that gives full consideration to what is necessary and what is possible and adheres to the laws governing social and economic development. At the same time, however, we cannot afford to just sit around and wait. We must be proactive about narrowing the gaps between regions, between urban and rural areas, and between rich and poor people. We should promote all-around social progress and well-rounded personal development, and advocate social fairness and justice, so that our people enjoy the fruits of development in a fairer way. We should see that people have a stronger sense of fulfilment, happiness, and security and make them feel that common prosperity is not an empty slogan but a concrete fact that they can see and feel for themselves.” My emphases.

As Xi perceptively admitted in this speech about the demise of the Soviet Union: “The Soviet Union was the world’s first socialist country and once enjoyed spectacular success. Ultimately however, it collapsed, mainly because the Communist Party of the Soviet Union became detached from the people and turned into a group of privileged bureaucrats concerned only with protecting their own interests (my emphasis). Even in a modernized country, if a governing party turns its back on the people, it will imperil the fruits of modernization.”

The other reason for Xi’s policy move is that, despite the quick recovery in the Chinese economy from the global pandemic slump, COVID has not been eradicated in China or elsewhere and this has led to a slowing in growth. In August, factory output went into reverse, slumping to an 18-month low, while the main survey of the services sector showed that sector took an even greater hit and contracted for the first time since last March.

Rana Mitter, a historian and director of the University of Oxford China Centre, commented “Party officials fear that the tech giants and the people who run them are out of control and need to be reined in. And then we must add Xi’s determination to be nominated next year for a third term that changes to the constitution now allow.” China’s capitalists imagined that they could act in the same way as those in the G7 economies by investing in property, fintech and consumer media and run up huge debts to do so. But COVID forced the government to try and curb the rise corporate and real estate debt. This has led to bankruptcy of several ‘shadow banking’ concerns and real estate companies. The giant property company Evergrande is struggling to repay $300bn debts and is now expected to go bust, unless the state bails it out. Evergrande claims to employ 200,000 people and indirectly generate 3.8 million jobs in China.

The government had to act to curb the unbridled expansion of unproductive and speculative investment. The latest Financial Stability Report from the People’s Bank of China (central bank) states that between 2017-2019, “the overall macro leverage ratio has stabilized at around 250%, which has won room to increase countercyclical adjustments in response to the epidemic.” In other words, the government could afford the fund the support necessary to get through the COVID slump. But the PBoC admitted that “under the impact of the epidemic in 2020, the nominal GDP growth rate will slow down, the macro hedging will be increased, and the macro leverage ratio will gradually rise. It is expected that it will gradually return to a basically stable track.” So debt is set to rise as China goes into 2022.

The PBoC report claims that it has got all the shadow banking and other risky financial operations under control: “the financial order has been comprehensively cleaned up and rectified. P2P online lending institutions in operation have all ceased operations, illegal fund-raising, cross-border gambling, and underground banks and other illegal financial activities have been effectively curbed, private equity funds, financial asset trading venues and other risk resolution have made positive progress, and the supervision of large financial technology companies has been strengthened.”

But the report is also revealed that there is a section of CP leaders who do actually want to press on with opening up China’s state-controlled financial system to capital (including foreign capital) – and these views are strong within the Western educated bankers in the PBoC. The PBoC report says that it wants to “continue to deepen reform and opening up, further promote the market-oriented reform of interest rates and exchange rates, steadily advance the reform of the capital market, and promote the high-quality development of the bond market. On the premise of effectively preventing risks, continue to expand high-level financial opening.” Apparently, the PBoC officials reckon even more relaxation of the financial regulations will reduce risk!

On the other hand, Xi and his supporters want to control the ‘wild east’ antics of the finance sectors in Shangahi and Shenhzen. Xi is now proposing setting up a new stock exchange in Beijing to lure domestic companies into listing at home instead of overseas. This is part of the strategy to reduce reliance on foreign investment.

According to China ‘experts’ in the West, this crackdown on finance, property and private tech is suicidal to China’s growth. These experts reckon that China cannot sustain its previous growth miracle based on state ownership, planning and investment and instead must let the markets dominate economic policy and investment. The World Bank has been a leader in promoting this strategy for China for decades. The then-World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a press conference in Beijing. “As China’s leaders know, the country’s current growth model is unsustainable.” The so-called middle-income trap describes how economies tend to stall and stagnate at a certain level of development, once wages have risen and productivity growth becomes harder. In early 2012, the World Bank and the Development Research Center, a think tank under China’s State Council, released a 473-page report that spelled out the reforms the country would need to undertake to avoid the “middle-income trap” and ascend to the ranks of high-income nations: ie let market forces rip.

Investment banker, George Magnus, a supposed China expert, has long argued the old chestnut that “at higher income levels, economies become too complex for command-and-control management by individuals. Systems are increasingly what matters. Rules that are transparent, predictable and fairly applied enable market forces to take over the job of directing economic activity, raising efficiency and allowing innovation to flourish.” Magnus, who devoted a chapter to the middle-income trap in his 2018 book Red Flags: Why Xi’s China is in Jeopardy, argues that in pursuing these policies and strategies, “China’s government will stifle incentives and innovation, and make it even more difficult to generate the productivity growth that all high-middle-income countries need to avoid the middle income trap.”

I have dealt with all these arguments in previous posts, so I won’t go into detail again. But the reality is that China is already on the cusp of gaining high-income status, as defined by the World Bank. Based on the World Bank’s current threshold and International Monetary Fund forecasts, the country should achieve that goal before 2025. Indeed, as Arthur Kroeber, head of research at Gavekal Dragonomics in China, has put it: “Is China fading? In a word, no. China’s economy is in good shape, and policymakers are exploiting this strength to tackle structural issues such as financial leverage, internet regulation and their desire to make technology the main driver of investment.” Kroeber echoes my view that: “On a two-year average basis, China is growing at about 5 per cent, while the US is well under 1 per cent. By the end of 2021 the US should be back around its pre-pandemic trend of 2.5 per cent annual growth. Over the next several years, China will probably keep growing at nearly twice the US rate.”

According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs, China’s digital economy is already large, accounting for almost 40% of GDP and fast growing, contributing more than 60% of GDP growth in recent years. “And there is ample room for China to further digitalize its traditional sectors”. China’s IT share of GDP climbed from 2.1% in 2011Q1 to 3.8% in 2021Q1. Although China still lags the US, Europe, Japan and South Korea in its IT share of GDP, the gap has been narrowing over time. No wonder, the US and other capitalist powers are intensifying their efforts to contain China’s technological expansion.

In a report, the New York Fed admits that if China keeps up this pace of expansion, it “is well on track to high-income status… After all, per capita income growth has averaged 6.2 percent over the last five years, implying a doubling roughly every eleven years, and per capita income is already close to 30 percent of the U.S. level.” But the NY Fed argues it won’t be able to as the working population is declining and there will be an insufficient rise in the productivity of labour to compensate. I challenged that forecast in a previous post.

The reason that the NY Fed as well as many Keynesian and other critics of the Chinese ‘miracle’ are so sceptical is that they are seeped in a different economic model for growth. They are convinced that China can only be ‘successful’ (like the economies of the G7!) if its economy depends on profitable investment by privately-owned companies in a ‘free market’. And yet the evidence of the last 40 and even 70 years is that a state-led, planning economic model that is China’s has been way more successful than its ‘market economy’ peers such as India, Brazil or Russia.

As Xi said in his speech: “China is now the world’s second largest economy, the largest industrial nation, the largest trader of goods, and the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves. China’s GDP has exceeded RMB100 trillion yuan and stands at over US$10,000 in per capita terms. Permanent urban residents account for over 60% of the population, and the middle-income group has grown to over 400 million. Particularly noteworthy are our historic achievements of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and eliminating absolute poverty—a problem which has plagued our nation for thousands of years.”

In contrast, the lessons of the global financial crash and the Great Recession of 2009, the ensuing long depression to 2019 and the economic impact of the pandemic slump are that introducing more capitalist production for profit will not sustain economic growth and certainly not deliver ‘common prosperity’.

Indeed, it is the capitalist sector in China that is in trouble and threatens China’s future prosperity. China’s capitalist sector is suffering (as it is in the major capitalist economies). Profitability has fallen, reducing the ability or willingness of China’s capitalists to invest productively. That is why speculation in unproductive investment has become ‘uncontrolled’ in China too. Far from the need to reduce the role of the state, China’s future growth through a rise in productivity of labour as the total workforce shrinks in size will depend on state-led investment in technology, skilled labour and ‘common prosperity’.

Xi’s crackdown on the billionaires and his call for reduced inequality is yet another zig in the zig-zag policy direction of the Chinese bureaucratic elite: from the early years of rigid state planning to Deng’s ‘market’ reforms in the 1980s; to the privatisation of some state companies in 1990s; to the return to firmer state control of the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy after the global slump in 2009; then the loosening of speculative credit after that; and now a new crackdown on the capitalist sector to achieve ‘common prosperity”.

These zig zags are wasteful and inefficient. They happen because China’s leadership is not accountable to its working people; there are no organs of worker democracy. There is no democratic planning. Only the 100 million CP members have a say in China’s economic future, and that is really only among the top. The other reason for the zig zags is that China is surrounded by imperialism and its allies both economically and militarily. Capitalism remains the dominant mode of production outside China, if not inside. ‘Common prosperity’ cannot be achieved properly while the forces of capital remain inside and outside China.


Source : Brave New Europe

扎实推动共同富裕

作者: 习近平 . . . . . . . .

改革开放后,我们党深刻总结正反两方面历史经验,认识到贫穷不是社会主义,打破传统体制束缚,允许一部分人、一部分地区先富起来,推动解放和发展社会生产力。

党的十八大以来,党中央把握发展阶段新变化,把逐步实现全体人民共同富裕摆在更加重要的位置上,推动区域协调发展,采取有力措施保障和改善民生,打赢脱贫攻坚战,全面建成小康社会,为促进共同富裕创造了良好条件。现在,已经到了扎实推动共同富裕的历史阶段。

现在,我们正在向第二个百年奋斗目标迈进。适应我国社会主要矛盾的变化,更好满足人民日益增长的美好生活需要,必须把促进全体人民共同富裕作为为人民谋幸福的着力点,不断夯实党长期执政基础。高质量发展需要高素质劳动者,只有促进共同富裕,提高城乡居民收入,提升人力资本,才能提高全要素生产率,夯实高质量发展的动力基础。当前,全球收入不平等问题突出,一些国家贫富分化,中产阶层塌陷,导致社会撕裂、政治极化、民粹主义泛滥,教训十分深刻!我国必须坚决防止两极分化,促进共同富裕,实现社会和谐安定。

同时,必须清醒认识到,我国发展不平衡不充分问题仍然突出,城乡区域发展和收入分配差距较大。新一轮科技革命和产业变革有力推动了经济发展,也对就业和收入分配带来深刻影响,包括一些负面影响,需要有效应对和解决。

共同富裕是社会主义的本质要求,是中国式现代化的重要特征。我们说的共同富裕是全体人民共同富裕,是人民群众物质生活和精神生活都富裕,不是少数人的富裕,也不是整齐划一的平均主义。

要深入研究不同阶段的目标,分阶段促进共同富裕:到“十四五”末,全体人民共同富裕迈出坚实步伐,居民收入和实际消费水平差距逐步缩小。到2035年,全体人民共同富裕取得更为明显的实质性进展,基本公共服务实现均等化。到本世纪中叶,全体人民共同富裕基本实现,居民收入和实际消费水平差距缩小到合理区间。要抓紧制定促进共同富裕行动纲要,提出科学可行、符合国情的指标体系和考核评估办法。

促进共同富裕,要把握好以下原则。

鼓励勤劳创新致富。

幸福生活都是奋斗出来的,共同富裕要靠勤劳智慧来创造。要坚持在发展中保障和改善民生,把推动高质量发展放在首位,为人民提高受教育程度、增强发展能力创造更加普惠公平的条件,提升全社会人力资本和专业技能,提高就业创业能力,增强致富本领。要防止社会阶层固化,畅通向上流动通道,给更多人创造致富机会,形成人人参与的发展环境,避免“内卷”、“躺平”。

坚持基本经济制度。

要立足社会主义初级阶段,坚持“两个毫不动摇”。要坚持公有制为主体、多种所有制经济共同发展,大力发挥公有制经济在促进共同富裕中的重要作用,同时要促进非公有制经济健康发展、非公有制经济人士健康成长。要允许一部分人先富起来,同时要强调先富带后富、帮后富,重点鼓励辛勤劳动、合法经营、敢于创业的致富带头人。靠偏门致富不能提倡,违法违规的要依法处理。

尽力而为量力而行。

要建立科学的公共政策体系,把蛋糕分好,形成人人享有的合理分配格局。要以更大的力度、更实的举措让人民群众有更多获得感。同时,也要看到,我国发展水平离发达国家还有很大差距。要统筹需要和可能,把保障和改善民生建立在经济发展和财力可持续的基础之上,不要好高骛远,吊高胃口,作兑现不了的承诺。政府不能什么都包,重点是加强基础性、普惠性、兜底性民生保障建设。即使将来发展水平更高、财力更雄厚了,也不能提过高的目标,搞过头的保障,坚决防止落入“福利主义”养懒汉的陷阱。

坚持循序渐进。

共同富裕是一个长远目标,需要一个过程,不可能一蹴而就,对其长期性、艰巨性、复杂性要有充分估计,办好这件事,等不得,也急不得。一些发达国家工业化搞了几百年,但由于社会制度原因,到现在共同富裕问题仍未解决,贫富悬殊问题反而越来越严重。我们要有耐心,实打实地一件事一件事办好,提高实效。要抓好浙江共同富裕示范区建设,鼓励各地因地制宜探索有效路径,总结经验,逐步推开。

总的思路是,坚持以人民为中心的发展思想,在高质量发展中促进共同富裕,正确处理效率和公平的关系,构建初次分配、再分配、三次分配协调配套的基础性制度安排,加大税收、社保、转移支付等调节力度并提高精准性,扩大中等收入群体比重,增加低收入群体收入,合理调节高收入,取缔非法收入,形成中间大、两头小的橄榄型分配结构,促进社会公平正义,促进人的全面发展,使全体人民朝着共同富裕目标扎实迈进。

第一,提高发展的平衡性、协调性、包容性。

要加快完善社会主义市场经济体制,推动发展更平衡、更协调、更包容。要增强区域发展的平衡性,实施区域重大战略和区域协调发展战略,健全转移支付制度,缩小区域人均财政支出差异,加大对欠发达地区的支持力度。要强化行业发展的协调性,加快垄断行业改革,推动金融、房地产同实体经济协调发展。要支持中小企业发展,构建大中小企业相互依存、相互促进的企业发展生态。

第二,着力扩大中等收入群体规模。

要抓住重点、精准施策,推动更多低收入人群迈入中等收入行列。高校毕业生是有望进入中等收入群体的重要方面,要提高高等教育质量,做到学有专长、学有所用,帮助他们尽快适应社会发展需要。技术工人也是中等收入群体的重要组成部分,要加大技能人才培养力度,提高技术工人工资待遇,吸引更多高素质人才加入技术工人队伍。中小企业主和个体工商户是创业致富的重要群体,要改善营商环境,减轻税费负担,提供更多市场化的金融服务,帮助他们稳定经营、持续增收。进城农民工是中等收入群体的重要来源,要深化户籍制度改革,解决好农业转移人口随迁子女教育等问题,让他们安心进城,稳定就业。要适当提高公务员特别是基层一线公务员及国有企事业单位基层职工工资待遇。要增加城乡居民住房、农村土地、金融资产等各类财产性收入。

第三,促进基本公共服务均等化。

低收入群体是促进共同富裕的重点帮扶保障人群。要加大普惠性人力资本投入,有效减轻困难家庭教育负担,提高低收入群众子女受教育水平。要完善养老和医疗保障体系,逐步缩小职工与居民、城市与农村的筹资和保障待遇差距,逐步提高城乡居民基本养老金水平。要完善兜底救助体系,加快缩小社会救助的城乡标准差异,逐步提高城乡最低生活保障水平,兜住基本生活底线。要完善住房供应和保障体系,坚持房子是用来住的、不是用来炒的定位,租购并举,因城施策,完善长租房政策,扩大保障性租赁住房供给,重点解决好新市民住房问题。

第四,加强对高收入的规范和调节。

在依法保护合法收入的同时,要防止两极分化、消除分配不公。要合理调节过高收入,完善个人所得税制度,规范资本性所得管理。要积极稳妥推进房地产税立法和改革,做好试点工作。要加大消费环节税收调节力度,研究扩大消费税征收范围。要加强公益慈善事业规范管理,完善税收优惠政策,鼓励高收入人群和企业更多回报社会。要清理规范不合理收入,加大对垄断行业和国有企业的收入分配管理,整顿收入分配秩序,清理借改革之名变相增加高管收入等分配乱象。要坚决取缔非法收入,坚决遏制权钱交易,坚决打击内幕交易、操纵股市、财务造假、偷税漏税等获取非法收入行为。

经过多年探索,我们对解决贫困问题有了完整的办法,但在如何致富问题上还要探索积累经验。要保护产权和知识产权,保护合法致富。要坚决反对资本无序扩张,对敏感领域准入划出负面清单,加强反垄断监管。同时,也要调动企业家积极性,促进各类资本规范健康发展。

第五,促进人民精神生活共同富裕。

促进共同富裕与促进人的全面发展是高度统一的。要强化社会主义核心价值观引领,加强爱国主义、集体主义、社会主义教育,发展公共文化事业,完善公共文化服务体系,不断满足人民群众多样化、多层次、多方面的精神文化需求。要加强促进共同富裕舆论引导,澄清各种模糊认识,防止急于求成和畏难情绪,为促进共同富裕提供良好舆论环境。

第六,促进农民农村共同富裕。

促进共同富裕,最艰巨最繁重的任务仍然在农村。农村共同富裕工作要抓紧,但不宜像脱贫攻坚那样提出统一的量化指标。要巩固拓展脱贫攻坚成果,对易返贫致贫人口要加强监测、及早干预,对脱贫县要扶上马送一程,确保不发生规模性返贫和新的致贫。要全面推进乡村振兴,加快农业产业化,盘活农村资产,增加农民财产性收入,使更多农村居民勤劳致富。要加强农村基础设施和公共服务体系建设,改善农村人居环境。

我总的认为,像全面建成小康社会一样,全体人民共同富裕是一个总体概念,是对全社会而言的,不要分成城市一块、农村一块,或者东部、中部、西部地区各一块,各提各的指标,要从全局上来看。我们要实现14亿人共同富裕,必须脚踏实地、久久为功,不是所有人都同时富裕,也不是所有地区同时达到一个富裕水准,不同人群不仅实现富裕的程度有高有低,时间上也会有先有后,不同地区富裕程度还会存在一定差异,不可能齐头并进。这是一个在动态中向前发展的过程,要持续推动,不断取得成效。


Source : 中央党史和文献研究院

【專訪】論共同富裕及其危險 牛津教授﹕不只消除經濟差異,也消除個人差異

中國推「共同富裕」,成為全球焦點。這項主張擴大中產,增加基層收入,「合理調節」高收入的政策,帶動不少經濟討論。

然而牛津大學中國中心主任 Rana Mitter(芮納・米德) 提醒,還有一個非常關鍵的討論層面,那就是社會政治。

在「共同富裕」政策推出同時,我們可見中國還有一系列社會文化的新政﹕規範娛樂(如堅決杜絕「娘炮」等畸形審美)、規範補習(將補習社登記為非牟利機構)、規範上網(青少年每天只能使用 40 分鐘抖音)、規範電子遊戲(未成年僅可於周五六日及假日玩 1 小時)。然而這些文化規範與追求經濟平等的「共同富裕」有何關係?卻鮮有人能觸及。

Mitter 對此深有研究。他是英國歷史學家,專注研究現代中國史,其著作包括 2000 年的 The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, resistance and collaboration in modern China(滿州迷思﹕現代中國的國族主義、抵抗與合作)、2004 年的 A Bitter Revolution(痛苦的革命﹕中國在現代世界中的鬥爭)、2013 年的 China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945 : The Struggle for Survival(中國對日戰爭,1937-1945﹕生存的鬥爭),以及 2020 年的 China’s Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism(中國好戰事﹕二次大戰如何形塑新國族主義)。

他在 2013 年的 Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II , 1937-1945 已翻譯成中文《被遺忘的盟友》出版,新作《中國好戰事》中文版亦將面世。2015 年,Rana Mitter 獲選為英國國家學術院院士;並因其教育成就,2019 年獲大英帝國勳章。

訪問中,Mitter 一開始便帶領我們跳出「共同富裕-共產主義」的必然關係。他認為,共同富裕可以追溯到《禮記》天下為公的概念。這令我們看見共同富裕不只是經濟政策,也關乎中國如何定義自己。

在這一點上,Mitter 認為,共同富裕目的不只消除經濟上的差異,也在消除人民行為上的差異。共同富裕區分了甚麼是政府覺得滿意、甚麼是他們覺得不滿意。透過共同富裕劃定官方認可的行為,中國自上而下建構自己的國族身分。

「某程度上,你可以說那是一項經濟上更平等,同時政治上更保守的政策。」

這種操作可能意味反對社會多元。Mitter 認為,共同富裕的危險之一,就是中國落入一套思維,認為個人自由與集體利益有衝突,帶來對人權的負面影響。

Mitter 認為,中國不一定要循這方向推行共同富裕。他舉出古今東西多個例子,說明無論是馬克思主義還是主張經濟平等的政治,都不一定要犧牲個人自由權利。他進一步指,共同富裕要成功,亦需要引入自下而上的意見和討論,令施政能夠因時制宜。中共奉為圭臬的馬克思主,正正提供一套工具,讓中共有可能靈活變通,達到共同富裕的目標。


立﹕立場新聞
M﹕Rana Mitter

「天下為公是共同富裕的一個早期概念」

立﹕雖然近月「共同富裕」變得熱門,但它並非新概念。你是甚麼時候注意到這個字詞的?

「共同富裕」並不是一個新概念。利用「慧科搜索 (WiseSearch)」功能於中國內地傳媒搜尋「共同富裕」作關鍵詞,過去十年此詞每年出現 700 至 2,800 次不等,但在 2021,截至 8 月 22 日,此詞出現次數高達 4,141 次。其中 7、8 月合共 1,494 次。原因在於今年 7 月 1 日,習近平宣稱成功消除絕對貧困、全面建成「小康社會」;接著,中國官方指,下個百年奮鬥目標,就是「共同富裕」。

M﹕我會說,最近數周前我都沒有很關注「共同富裕」。

然而箇中的概念,我卻已經觀察好一段日子。將財富分配給更多人,在中國有很長歷史。早在帝王時代,中國的君臣亦已深深意識到,平均分配財富是社會穩定的必要條件。例如中國有一個頗有名的概念叫「常平倉」,就是官方會用糧倉儲穀,在乾旱、欠收的時候分發給人民。這就是共同富裕的一種例子。明清時代有很多類似的措施。

二戰後、甚至在二戰結束前,類似例子亦有出現。一些西方福利概念,如英國的卑弗列治報告 (Beveridge Report),以及美國的美國軍人權利法案,都在二戰前後被中國用來與一些傳統方法結合,確保人民能夠應對洪水一類天災,及獲得幫助開墾農田、建設工業。

又例如孫中山就熱衷於「天下為公」。你可以說,天下為公是共同富裕的一個早期概念。

常平倉﹕中國古代政府為調節糧價,儲糧備荒以供應官需民食而設定的糧倉。主要是運用價值規律調劑糧食供應。在糧價低的時候,提高糧價大量收購;在糧價高的時候,降低價格進行出售。這一措施既避免「穀賤傷農」,又防止了「谷貴傷民」,對平抑市場和鞏固政權起積極作用,反映人民民眾的利益。

卑弗列治報告 (Beveridge Report)﹕或譯《貝弗里奇報告》,又稱《社會保險和相關服務 (Social Insurance and Allied Services)》,發表於 1942 年,由英國經濟學家威廉・卑弗列治 (William Beveridge) 編寫,被視為英國社會保障制度及福利國家的奠基作之一。該報告設計了一套「從搖籃到墳墓」的公民社會福利制度,為英國所有公民提供醫療、就業、養老和其它福利保障。

美國軍人權利法案 (G.I. Bill of Rights)﹕又稱《1944 年軍人復員法案 (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944)》,是一項於 1944 年在美國國會通過的法案。該法案旨在安置二次大戰的退伍軍人,給他們提供各種福利,包括由失業保險支付的經濟補貼,家庭及商業貸款等。

共同富裕不是共產黨的發明

立﹕這觀點很有趣。很多人會認為「共同富裕」是來自共產主義,不會想到孫中山與「天下為公」。

M﹕這類福利措施不是共產黨的發明,國民黨也有做類似的事。雖然在國共內戰,他們對立,但其實兩者願景有相似之處﹕雙方都熱衷於一種強勢、威權、自上而下的政府,也熱衷於福利。土地改革與財富再分配都是兩黨共通的概念。儘管雙方對福利的想法不一致﹕中國共產黨主要建基於階級鬥爭,國民黨不是。

當然共產黨戰勝後,就其福利理念做了許多實踐,但若說它只是共產黨的想法,歷史並不是這樣說。

此外我會說,廣義上,「共產主義」和(儒家傳統的)「天下為公」也含有類似價值。中國共產主義很大程度上參照馬克思主義,然而它也大量參照中國帝王史。

我們當然知道,早期中共強烈拒絕儒家思想。毛澤東很熟悉歷史,古詩也寫得很好;但個人而言,他很大程度上拒絕傳統。他曾說過儒家社會像鐵籠一樣約束中國百姓。同樣,雖然沒有入黨但對共產黨態度正面的魯迅,亦清晰地在《狂人日記》形容儒家思想「吃人」。這明顯是對儒家的拒絕。

然而在 80、90 年代,共產黨思想家開始公開將它們並置。例如胡喬木,他是毛澤東的祕書,也是 50 、60 年代黨內主要的理論歷史學家,可說是中共最核心的人物。而他在 1980 年代,就談到將孔子帶回官方論述的必要。後來我們也看到孔子像開始重新出現,一度遭破壞的孔子墓得到復修,其出生地曲阜成為中國其中一個最大的旅遊點。

孔子不是中共敵人,他可以為中共服務──這概念便是由此浮現。而其實一直以來都是這麼回事。只是中共 20 世紀初誕生時,需要一些東西去反對,以確立自身地位。在文化大革命對儒家作出終極否定後,共產黨便轉向,將孔子重新帶入官方論述。

有些人甚至會說,中共早期經典、劉少奇的《論共產黨員的修養》,可以加副題為《論儒士的修養》。在劉少奇眼中,兩者大概沒很大差別。同樣,你看今日中國大陸的社會主義價值,當中一些價值仍緊扣於傳統概念如「和」。這說明二十世紀價值與傳統的揉合。

胡喬木(1912-1992)﹕中國政治人物。馬克思主義理論家。從 1941 年至 1969 年,任毛澤東秘書。曾擔任中國社會科學院院長、新華社社長、中共中央書記處候補書記等職。

《論共產黨員的修養》﹕劉少奇於 1939 年在延安馬列學院作出的著名演說,對中共黨員提出了黨性鍛煉的要求。中華人民共和國成立後,1962 年再版。文革期間曾因其中言論被斥「大肆宣揚孔孟之道,毒害廣大黨員和青年」。

共同富裕的社會目的﹕消除中國內部差異

立﹕這種角度怎樣幫助我們看「共同富裕」?

M﹕我認為「共同富裕」不只與經濟相關,亦扣連於政治,關注的是中國往哪裡去。

今日的中國領袖想締造的改變有兩部份。第一部份純粹是經濟的。經濟上最大的矛盾與鬥爭,在追求增長與確保可持續發展之間。這就是為甚麼中國要嘗試縮小收入差距、打壓富人。這樣做能夠快速表明政府在尋求紓緩經濟不平等。

然而同時,愈來愈多跡象顯示,「共同富裕」亦含有社會目的﹕消除、縮減中國內部的差異。不只消除經濟差異,也消除人們在行為上的差異。

今早我看新聞讀到,抖音限制兒童每天只能使用 40 分鐘。為甚麼要這樣做?當然這跟網路沉迷有關,有些人在網路花太多時間;但我們也可以問,為甚麼這麼多孩子在虛擬世界花這麼多時間?

因為這是為自己建立個人主義的方法。

從一個角度看,個人主義是自我表達;從另一角度看,它可以是「個人反對集體利益」,不是好事。

例如女性主義作家丁玲,她在 1927 年寫的《莎菲女士的日記》是 20 世紀初最有突破性的現代主義短篇故事之一。這個莎菲女士想要有自己的人生,想要男朋友……基本上她想解放自己。她對政治不感興趣,感興趣的只是尋找自己而已。

然而五四運動以來,無論蔣介石與毛澤東都認為,女性須要以個人主義為黨服務。1943 年在延安整風運動有一件著名事件,是關於丁玲與毛澤東的論爭。丁玲認為,女性需要講女權,女性作為個體,與男性不同,而革命必須考慮這一點。而毛澤東只是說,還是階級鬥爭比較重要。

我們也要公平指出,1949 年共產黨戰勝後,在一些範疇例如離婚法,是有引入更多女性主義觀點的。只是總體而言,女性地位到今日在社會仍是頗大的問題。

丁玲﹕1904-1986。中國現代女性主義作家、社會活動家,中國共產黨黨員。代表作包括《莎菲女士的日記》、《太陽照在桑乾河上》等。

莎菲女士的日記﹕丁玲寫於 1927 年的一部短篇小說,描述年輕女子莎菲的故事。作品大部分內容關注的是莎菲女士的浪漫吸引力和性慾望,從女性角度坦率記載了女人的心,和對男性的看法。作品在新文化運動和五四運動中,被視為具有里程碑意義。

延安整風運動﹕又稱整風運動、延安整風等。於抗戰期間由毛澤東在延安發起。所謂「整風」是指「整頓三風」,包括「反對主觀主義以整頓學風,反對宗派主義以整頓黨風,反對黨八股以整頓文風」。運動後,毛澤東成為黨主席,黨中央的地位得到確立,許多學者認為是毛澤東個人崇拜的開端。運動中亦有大量人員遭到迫害死亡。

回到今天。若莎菲女士在今日的中國出現,我認為她會受到一些官方人士關注。在最近中國的 MeToo 運動,官方似乎也向支持者表明,MeToo 不是官方想發放的訊號。不同於共產黨路線的個人主義,讓中共感到不適。

因此我認為,共同富裕雖是關乎經濟平等,但也旨在區分甚麼是廣泛社會與政府覺得滿意、甚麼是他們覺得不滿意。某程度上,你可以說那是一項經濟上更平等,同時政治上更保守的政策。

退一步看,共產主義革命的悠長歷史,一直含有經濟系統與社會系統的矛盾﹕一方面它應該是解放的、自我實現的,另一方面它卻又熱衷於建立一套社會規範。我們曾經稱這種社會規範的人為「社會主義新人 (New Socialist Person)」。這個矛盾就在今日的共同富裕出現。

中國 MeToo 運動﹕2018 年央視著名主持人朱軍被捲入一宗 MeToo 醜聞,被一網名「弦子」的女實習生指控他曾在 2014 年作性騷擾行為。弦子對朱軍提訴,後進入法庭審理階段,在中國性騷擾案件十分罕有,被視為 MeToo 運動里程碑;然而今年 9 月,北京一家法院裁定案件證據不足,「弦子」稱要繼續抗爭。

社會主義新人﹕New Socialist Person,或 New Socialist Man。社會主義或烏托邦思想的概念,形容在社會主義中的一個完美「人辦」。特質因論者而異,一般而言包括有教養、健康、家庭美滿完整、熱衷於推廣社會主義價值觀。

共同富裕與中國國族主義

M﹕這種社會的保守主義與經濟平等,亦與國族主義相關。

請容我解釋何謂國族主義。很多時候,國族主義被視為等同於排外主義。在我的新作 China’s Good War(《中國好戰事》),我提出一個不同觀點,那就是﹕在這個一般市民已不再熱衷於階級與鬥爭的時代,國族主義很大程度上也是關於假借民族國家之名,尋找集體身份。換句話說,很多人看中國國族主義的錯誤在於,他們主要看中國如何看待其他國家。我不認同。我覺得主要是關乎中國怎樣思考自己。

中國是個仍在定義自身身分的民族國家。從這角度講,她與一些自上而下、反對多元的國家差異不大。例如匈牙利。當然匈牙利政府是民選的,但總理維克多・奧班 (Viktor Orbán) 與中國的領導層世界觀其實相似。她們都是用一種自上而下,傾向反多元的觀點,去理解民族國家,以及人在其中如何自處。匈牙利能夠成為中國在歐洲最好的朋友之一,並非巧合。

也就是在定義自己身分的過程中,這一代中共領袖選擇比以往所有中共黨人更主動擁抱中國傳統。我認為現在中國不願再像毛澤東那樣拒絕傳統,相反,她很熱衷於參照中國久遠的文化。在我看來,將「天下為公」認作共同富裕的根源,也有一定吸引力。

中國可能出現的危險﹕共同富裕侵蝕人際差異

立﹕你說的反對多元,與西方人權強調的自由似乎有抵觸。你如何從人權角度看共同富裕?

M﹕首先,人權不是西方價值。聯合國在 1948 年通過《世界人權宣言》。這份對人權來說最重要的文件之一,由許多人撰寫,而其中一名積極參與者,就是中國哲學家張彭春。除他以外還有許多人,例如黎巴嫩阿拉伯人 Charles Malik 等的參與。因此我們不應將它視為西方產物。

世界人權宣言﹕La déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme。聯合國大會於 1948 年在法國巴黎通過的一份文獻,旨在維護人類基本權利。內文共有 30 條,宣言起草的直接原因是對第二次世界大戰的反省,是第一份在全球範圍內表述所有人類都應該享有的權利的文件。

張彭春﹕1892-1957。張伯苓胞弟。張彭春生於中國,在美國哥倫比亞大學接受教育。曾任國民政府外交官、中華民國駐聯合國安理會代表、聯合國人權委員會副主席。《世界人權宣言》主要起草人之一。起草時張彭春引進儒家孟子思想,結合亞里士多德的理性 (reason) 思想,提醒良知為人類共有,翻譯成英文的 conscience(良心)亦應體現在宣言。如今《世界人權宣言》第一條便寫﹕All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.(人人生而自由,在尊嚴和權利上一律平等。他們賦有理性和良心,並應以兄弟關係的精神相對待。)

Charles Malik﹕1906-1987。黎巴嫩學者、外交官,曾任聯合國黎巴嫩代表, 有份負責起草《世界人權宣言》。

至於人權與共同富裕有何關係,我認為其中一個危險就是中國落入一套思維,認為個人自由與權利,以及共同富裕和集體利益有衝突。

列寧就是這樣想。而馬克思則從來不犯這個錯誤。我們要分清楚馬克思主義和馬克思列寧主義(馬列主義)。列寧主義重點不在個人,而在使用壓逼手段、製造恐怖。馬克思是要引入新的經濟模式,但這跟個人自由與權利沒抵觸。馬克思主義,以最嚴謹的角度講,是很講個人意識的。

馬克思有句話很有名 ── 它之所以有名是因為可以用不同方式解讀,而我將會提出我的解讀方法 ── 那就是「人創造他們的歷史,但不是隨心所欲而為之 (Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please)」。我的解讀是,個人對馬克思來說非常重要。馬克思主義關乎世界連合,但也關乎個人賦權。每個個體的工人都重要。儘管大社會的力量、起伏、革命等,並不由個人控制,但這不代表個人只能隨波逐流,別無選擇。馬克思主義認為,儘管個人處身於巨大的系統,他們仍需獲分配資源,去實現自己想要成為的個體。

「任何想創造同一性的計劃都不會成功」

M﹕我認為中國的危險可能就是 ── 現時仍未知會否發生 ── 共同富裕侵蝕差異。中國是一個眾數詞 (China is a plural noun)。她不是人人抱持同一價值。過去不是,現在也不是。13 億人,每個人都有他們的世界觀。其差異之大,社會之多元,我認為任何想創造同一性的計劃都不會成功。

事實上,世界有許多政府都是馬克思主義、但同時堅持個人權利。有兩個明顯的例子是在印度。一個是西孟加拉邦 (West Bengal) 的印度共產黨(馬克思主義)(Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI(M))。它曾當選執政,並在約 30 年後因敗選而和平移交權力。另一個是喀拉拉邦 (Kerala) 政府。喀拉拉邦在印度獨立後有很長的民選歷史,她是印度其中一個識字率最高、媒體最自由的地方,也擁有能發揮功能的反對派。而在該邦,共產黨多次贏得選舉,現在也是執政黨。它是一個好例子,說明你如何可以信奉馬克思主義、共產主義,同時堅持自由選舉、個人公民權利和言論自由等價值。

同時,分享財富創造更平等的社會,以此定義國族身分,並同時保持社會開放,也並非不可能。斯堪的納維亞諸國 (Scandinavian countries)就是這樣﹕瑞典、挪威、丹麥、芬蘭。這些地方擁有很強的國族身分。很多人覺得斯堪的納維亞國家很和平,其實並不總是如此。芬蘭 1917 年曾為其自由對抗俄羅斯,挪威曾在二戰時代對抗納粹。丹麥在二戰時一直被德國佔領;戰後,他們要一邊應對外部力量,一邊定義自己。如何定義自己?並不是靠成為擁有強大軍事實力的崛起國家,而是靠開放社會,以及最優良的、最公平的社會福利。

中國如果想透過共同富裕政策讓人民投入創造平等的共同願景,同時大幅保有個人行動自由、言論自由、思想自由,斯堪的納維亞諸國是可供借鏡的例子。

共同富裕要容許討論、保有靈活性

其實共同富裕這種龐大複雜的政策,不可能弄一個清單,加以實踐就能成功。它需要不斷變化,需要容許一定靈活性,因時制宜。要達到這目標,唯一方法就是容許人們討論,找出做得好與不好的地方。共同富裕不能僅僅自上而下,亦要有自下而上的參與。

我認為,中國共產黨過去百年之所以能夠適應時局變遷,就是因為它可以容忍合理程度的討論。也有時候討論會變得困難,例如 1950 年代的大躍進,討論空間很小,這就是中國靈活性消失的時候。但在過去數十年,也有過討論比較開放的時代,例如改革開放,很多經濟改革政策就是汲取中國內外的討論,並加以組合而成。中國一直都有能力整合不同意念、不同思考。

可以說,「富裕」也許是「共同」的,但人們邁向它的道路可以不同。如果看不到這一點,僅僅自上而下將同一套東西加諸 13 億人,這政策會有不足。

在保持靈活性上,中國也可以回到馬克思主義。在馬克思主義,你有一個「正 (thesis)」,然後有一個「反 (antithesis)」,雙方出現矛盾,進而得到結「合 (synthesis)」。馬克思主義不是牢固不變的宗教,而是給你一套工具,讓你應對實際情況。如果中國自稱為馬克思主義經濟和社會,那麼馬克思主義可以為她提供一套保持靈活性的方案。

立﹕一些政治理論認為,當政體抑壓人民個人意志,兩者之間會產生張力,進而導致人民反抗,政府倒台。你認為共同富裕有可能帶來這樣的結果嗎?

M﹕我覺得不會。

我們知道,今日中國成功創造的經濟模式,基本上能夠帶來足夠經濟增長,保持整個系統穩定。例如生活質素,概略而言中國過去四十年是一代比一代好的。中國城市化的速度可能是歷史上最快,而一般來說城市化會帶來更高人均收入。我亦認為中國成功利用意識型態為民眾創造一種共同願景。自從金融危機後,過去十多年間,中國也成功設立了一系列的「緩衝」,防禦突發危機出現。

當然我不是說中國沒有問題。中國仍有許多重大問題。例如人口。一孩政策對人口傷害甚大。中國出生率不足以令人口平衡,結果就是整體人口年齡愈來愈老,到 2030 年起會開始出現負增長。日本也有類似問題,但日本人均收入高許多。中國人均收入不會足夠像日本那樣應對。因此,中國今日就要準備處理這問題。

另一問題是環境與氣候變化。它是整個世界都要面對的問題,中國也不例外,尤其是在比較乾旱的北方,影響會更加大。

但這些問題會否帶來根本的反動?我的評估仍是不會。畢竟中國的人均收入還是比 20 年前、40 年前富裕許多。如果有美國朋友問我中國會否崩潰,我會說無疑中國有很多問題,但沒有證據證明整個系統無法維持。

調轉來說也一樣。一些中國朋友有時會問我,是否覺得美國的根本性危機會令她崩潰。他們這樣問,某程度上是希望我答 Yes,但我要告訴他們的答案仍是 No。美國是有許多問題,例如嚴重黨派矛盾、氣候問題。然而美國也有很多資源與很強的社會多元性,這樣她不會輕易倒下。


Source : Stand News


為何經濟發展往往未能帶來共富?

作者: 鄧希煒 . . . . . . . . .

從孔子的「不患寡而患不均」或亞里士多德的「最差的不平等形式是讓不平等的事物變得平等」(The worst form of inequality is trying to make unequal things equal),到近年美國坊間探討下滲經濟學(Trickle-down Economics)的失敗,及最近中國在檢討自改革開放以來「一部分人先富起來」後「共同富裕」的進展,貧富懸殊自古以來都是常被熱論的話題。筆者在此綜觀全球貧富懸殊問題和聚焦香港的嚴峻情況,望能激發更多深入的討論及思考。

全球化下的貧富不均

自1980年代中期起,在歷時20多年的超全球化進程中,一些人口較多的發展中國家(中國、印度、巴西、南非等),在短期內透過經濟改革及對外開放,達致急速增長,一方面迅速縮短國與國之間的經濟差距,但另一方面,超全球化對已發展國家而言,特別是對它們的製造業,帶來不可預期的衝擊。由於跨國企業把大量勞動力密集的工種轉移到工資較低的勞動市場,導致發達國家出現大量工業職位流失、工資增長停滯的現象,繼而擴大此等國家中的收入差距。國際貿易常造就贏家及輸家,早在傳統國際貿易理論意料之內,這一點在近年亦獲得多國相關數據分析所印證。正因為貧富差距在多國於超全球化年代大為擴闊,加上政客及媒體推波助瀾,引致近年各地社會普遍認為經濟全球化是貧富懸殊加劇的主因,於是反全球化、民粹主義、民族主義及反精英主義等思潮相繼冒起。

然而,科技發展與全球化之間的互動,同樣加劇貧富不均,此現象卻未在經濟學文獻中加以系統性量化分析。其實從部分研究可見,機械化及智能製造較國際貿易更有效長期取代大量職位,特別是可轉為常規化、數碼化的職務,如零件裝嵌、數據及文本分析,不單是低收入就業人口,就連文員、會計、律師一類中高等收入職位亦逐漸受到影響。美國麻省理工學院知名勞動經濟學家David Autor,多年來在其研究發現,自1990年代起,在西方先進國家,中等收入職位組別的平均工資增長及勞動力需求,都遠低於在收入分布中最高及最低的組別,並稱之為中產階級空心化(hollowing out of the middle class)【註】。隨着生產科技不斷創新,人工智能的應用愈來愈普及,預計許多工種快將消失,正如著名歷史學家哈拉里(Yuval Harari)在其《21世紀的21個教訓》(21 Lessons for the 21st Century)一書中強調,除了氣候變化及核戰外,人類未來面對最大的挑戰是,當大多工作不再需要勞動投入時,對自身存在價值的質疑。

與此同時,全球化及科技發展所衍生的另外兩個經濟現象,亦加劇貧富懸殊。首先,科技發展帶動的工業生產率增長,長時間超越服務業,加上企業能更有效地在全球各地勞動市場找到代工,導致大量製造業工人轉到平均收入及生產率增長較低的服務業,其再培訓潛力及向上流動的機會,往往也遠低於以往傳統工業的職位。這些在各地包括香港及近年內地都可見的「去工業化」現象,不單拉低整體經濟生產力,更加劇收入不均。

另外,科技及貿易能讓競爭力較強的公司,透過規模經濟的效益及向政府的游說,進一步鞏固其在市場的領導甚至壟斷地位。這不但增強了它們的定價能力,甚至強化了它們與供應商及勞工的議價能力。最近在各國看見的新反壟斷條例及案例,正是為了解決因企業壟斷而造成市場不公而設。

相對於勞動收入不均,財富不均程度更有過之而無不及。自2008年金融危機之後,多國央行特別是美國聯邦儲備局,持續多年推行量化寬鬆政策,營造低息環境,並大量購買股票及其他高風險高回報投資產品,直接推高資產市場包括房地產價格。正如皮格提(Thomas Piketty)在其經典著作《21世紀資本論》(Capital in the 21st Century)中指出,回顧西方國家數百年的經驗,歸納出當平均資產回報高於經濟增長率,當代甚至跨代貧富不均就會增加。

自2020年初新冠肺炎爆發後,多國央行合共增加數萬億美元的貨幣供應,亦加大量化寬鬆的力度,各地股市自同年4月跌至谷底後反彈,屢創新高,與實體經濟脫節;低收入職位普遍受疫情影響較嚴重,通貨膨脹亦已在全球相繼出現。前車可鑑,這些都是令人擔心的發展,貧富懸殊要是不加以控制,不單會引發經濟危機,更會製造更多社會問題及加劇全球政治風險。

香港貧富不均每況愈下

眾所周知,香港特區的貧富懸殊問題屬全球最嚴重之列。香港作為一個小型、開放的已發展經濟體,上述導致西方國家出現貧富懸殊的因素,在香港早已出現。多年來房價不斷上漲是財富不均的主因,「成功需父幹」更是很多人擁有「躺平」心態的根源。正如【圖1】所顯示,觀乎2000至2020年人均本地生產總值(GDP)增幅高達89%,整體經濟看似表現理想,但同期家庭入息中位數增幅則僅得63%,而居於私人樓宇4人家庭的住屋開支卻激增306%。即使無意置業,亦難免感受到食品價格上漲的壓力,因為期間食品價格的漲幅超過80%。在此20年間,作為常與香港相提並論的新加坡,其家庭入息中位數大增90%,而平均房屋和食品價格則分別上升52%和50%而已【圖2】。難怪大部分香港市民感到生活質素並無顯著改善,更漸覺捉襟見肘。住屋問題當然是本港重中之重的問題,坊間亦有很多論述及政策分析,此處不贅。

造就收入不均趨勢逐年上升的原因不一,筆者最近在港大經管學院的《香港經濟政策綠皮書2021》中分析,儘管香港四大支柱行業在GDP佔比維持在60%,但除金融外,另外三大支柱,即旅遊、貿易及物流、專業及工商業支援服務業的僱員人數逐年下降,就業人口入息水準較低的兩大服務業(貿易及物流業和旅遊業)則分別從2010年和2013年起持續萎縮。

三大支柱行業僱員流失的比率,並未由香港作為先進經濟體所應致力發展的高科技知識密集行業補上,反而像眾多西方國家一樣,落入收入較低的服務業之中,尤其是零售和個人服務。從【圖3】中可見,猶如David Autor在西方其他國家發現,香港的就業市場已日趨兩極化,高收入(如經理、專業人士和技術人員)和低收入(如個人服務員、清潔員、保安員、操作員和勞工)職位佔比均見增加,反而中等收入職位,包括行政人員、生產工人和專業銷售人員,則逐漸減少。據最新香港人口統計數據,2011至2016年低收入職位佔總就業人口比例的增幅,更高於高收入職位。在世界各地去全球化和去中介化的雙重趨勢下,貿易和物流業及相關服務行業在香港整體勞動市場的佔比,大概仍有持續下降的趨勢,而旅遊業受到新冠疫情的沉重打擊,很可能需多年才能恢復疫前面貌。

解決本港的貧富懸殊問題,應先從房屋一環入手,這在社會上已有共識,但坊間較少討論的,是香港經濟未來發展及轉型的問題。筆者曾在報章上多次發文強調,任何經濟體,從工業轉型到服務業以後,經濟政策的方向應在於帶動可持續性經濟增長,並以創造多元化職位為本。所謂可持續性,是指一方面減輕貧富懸殊的惡化程度,一方面則在社會創造向上流動的工作機會,並促使自然及經濟生態環境形成自生能力。

當然具體政策執行障礙重重,各國政府亦嘗試不同的政策,製造誘因及規範,推動可持續發展。中國及美國政府最近均提出再分配政策,如改革稅制等。但筆者認為更困難的是,政府應如何重新定位,與市場經濟取得平衡,從而帶動可持續經濟發展。


Source : HKU

Xi Jinping’s Talk of “Common Prosperity” Spooks the Prosperous

In a speech in 2016 Xi Jinping, China’s president, explored the roots of an idea that is now troubling the country’s tycoons and depressing the stock market—an idea that may be motivating China’s crackdown on private tutoring, its antitrust fines on internet firms, its new guidelines on the treatment of gig workers and its steps towards a property tax, as well as inspiring large charitable donations from some of the country’s most prominent enterprises. That idea is common prosperity.

Common prosperity, Mr Xi pointed out, has been an ideal of the Chinese people since ancient times. It was espoused by his predecessors as Communist Party leader. (Even Deng Xiaoping, who was famously happy to let some “get rich first”, insisted that they then help others to catch up.) The ideal appears not just in Marx but also in Confucius, Mr Xi said. He quoted a well known line from “The Analects”, which says something to the effect that a wise leader worries not about poverty but about inequality; not that his people are too few, but that they are too divided. (It is snappier in the original Chinese.)

The idea, then, is not new. But it is newly important. The term has appeared 65 times in Mr Xi’s speeches or meetings this year, according to Bloomberg. A recent example is the powerful Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission, which sets and enforces the party line on the economy. It focused on the idea at its meeting on August 17th.

But what precisely does it mean? The party has clarified what it does not entail: it does not imply that everyone will end up enjoying equal prosperity. Entrepreneurs who create their own wealth, “work hard with integrity and have the guts to start their own businesses” should be encouraged. Nor will the egalitarian turn be abrupt. It should be pursued “step by step” in a “gradual” manner, the commission reiterated this month.

But the goal also rules out a continuation of the status quo. “We must not allow the gap between rich and poor to get wider,” Mr Xi insisted in January. People in the top fifth of Chinese households enjoy a disposable income more than ten times as high as people in the bottom fifth, according to official figures. Disposable incomes in cities are two and a half times as high as in the countryside. And the top 1% own 30.6% of household wealth, according to Credit Suisse, a bank (compared with 31.4% in America).

Unfortunately, defining what will count as common prosperity is complicated by the sheer volume and variety of aspirations and exhortations that often follow in the term’s trail, aspirations that could be laudable or lamentable depending on details that have yet to be formulated, let alone divulged.

Common prosperity will require a stronger safety-net for the unfortunate, better pensions, more equal access to public services, including education and health. It will result in an “olive-shaped” distribution of income that is fat in the middle but thin at the bottom and top. China has about 400m people living on incomes between 100,000 and 500,000 yuan (roughly $15,000-77,000) for a family of three or the equivalent. It wants to double that number to 800m people in about a decade, according to the Development Research Centre, a think-tank attached to China’s State Council.

The party says it will increase the role of taxation in fighting inequality. It will adjust high incomes “reasonably”. But it has yet to quantify that reasonableness by specifying future tax rates or thresholds. Besides, the government overhauled personal taxes as recently as 2018, making it unlikely to have another go soon, according to Gabriel Wildau of Teneo, a risk-advisory firm. A crackdown on tax evasion and illicit income is more likely. This week the party’s corruption watchdog said it had instructed over 24,800 party cadres in the city of Hangzhou to undertake “self-examination” and confess to any illegal borrowing from local firms or other conflicts of interest.

Most egalitarian governments content themselves with tweaking taxes and transfers. But China’s reach is broader. It is also championing two other kinds of redistribution: “voluntary” donations by the rich (Tencent, an internet giant, ploughed $7.7bn into its social initiatives soon after the August 17th meeting) and what is sometimes called “pre-distribution”. This can entail altering the split of national income between wages and profits. A common prosperity “demonstration zone” in Zhejiang province, for example, includes a target to raise labour’s share of the province’s income from 47.8% (in 2017) to over 50%.

The labour share is not easy to measure let alone manipulate. It has declined steadily in many developed economies, thanks to deep forces like globalisation and technological change. But China’s wage-earners might benefit from policies like the government’s new guidelines on gig workers, which seek to improve their wages and bargaining position. Certainly, investors in the gig economy fear these policies will leave a smaller slice of the cake for them. The share price of Meituan, a food-delivery giant, has fallen by 18% since the guidelines were released.

As with many of its signature initiatives, the party will not impose a common approach to common prosperity. “Local authorities will be encouraged to explore effective ways that suit local conditions,” it said on August 17th. Cities in Zhejiang are scrambling to add the label to various initiatives, from narrowing the gap between urban and rural areas to promoting the “spiritual” riches of the populace. Over time, the successful projects will be said to conform to Mr Xi’s vision; in reality, his vision will coalesce around them.

Just because common prosperity remains nebulous does not, however, mean it is vacuous. “Achieving common prosperity is not only an economic issue, but also a significant political issue,” Mr Xi said in January. The party hopes that reviving this ancient ideal will help strengthen the foundations of its rule. Confucius again got there first. “Where there is contentment,” the sage says, “there will be no upheavals.”


Source : The Economist

中央财办韩文秀:共同富裕要靠共同奋斗,不搞“杀富济贫”

中共中央宣传部举行介绍《中国共产党的历史使命与行动价值》文献有关情况新闻发布会。

会上,中央财办分管日常工作的副主任韩文秀表示,共同富裕要靠共同奋斗,这是根本途径。要鼓励勤劳致富、创新致富,鼓励辛勤劳动、合法经营、敢于创业的致富带头人,允许一部分人先富起来,先富带后富、帮后富,不搞“杀富济贫”。

记者:中国已经全面建成了小康社会,目前正在向建设社会主义现代化强国的第二个百年奋斗目标迈进。请问,在解决贫富分化、实现共同富裕上面临哪些挑战?又将如何应对?

中央财办分管日常工作的副主任韩文秀:

这是一个热门话题。共同富裕是社会主义的本质要求,是中国式现代化的重要特征,也是人民群众的共同期盼。前不久,中央财经委员会第十次会议,对共同富裕问题进行了专题研究,习近平总书记在会上发表了重要讲话,作了全面部署。我理解,要从几个方面来把握好。

第一,什么是共同富裕。我们已经全面建成小康社会,在这个基础上,要继续把做大蛋糕和分好蛋糕两件事情办好,大力推动高质量发展,普遍提高城乡居民收入水平,逐步缩小分配差距,坚决防止两极分化。共同富裕是全体人民的富裕,不是少数人的富裕;是人民群众物质生活和精神生活双富裕,不是仅仅物质上富裕而精神上空虚;是仍然存在一定差距的共同富裕,不是整齐划一的平均主义同等富裕。

第二,我们靠什么来实现共同富裕。共同富裕要靠共同奋斗,这是根本途径。要鼓励勤劳致富、创新致富,鼓励辛勤劳动、合法经营、敢于创业的致富带头人,允许一部分人先富起来,先富带后富、帮后富,不搞“杀富济贫”。要坚持在发展中保障和改善民生,为人民提高受教育程度、增强发展能力,创造更加普惠、公平的条件,畅通社会向上流动的通道,给更多人创造致富的机会。要扎实推进基本公共服务均等化,坚持尽力而为、量力而行,防止落入福利主义的陷阱,我们不能等靠要,不能养懒汉。要构建初次分配、再分配、三次分配协调配套的基础性制度安排,加大税收、社保、转移支付等等调节的力度,扩大中等收入群体,形成中间大、两头小的橄榄形分配结构。第三次分配是在自愿基础上的,不是强制的,国家税收政策要给予适当激励,通过慈善捐赠等方式,起到改善分配结构的补充作用。

第三,要充分估计实现共同富裕的长期性、艰巨性、复杂性。我国正在全面建设社会主义现代化国家,由全面小康迈向共同富裕,由中等收入国家发展成为高收入国家,实现共同富裕是一个在动态中向前发展的过程,不可能一蹴而就,也不可能齐头并进。我们要坚持稳中求进、循序渐进、久久为功,一件事情接着一件事情办,一年接着一年干,在新时代促进人的全面发展、使全体人民共同富裕取得实质性进展。


Source : Sohu

Charts: One Reason for China’s New Emphasis on ‘Common Prosperity’ — Widening Wealth and Income Gaps

Source : Caixin


Read the article . . . . .