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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.

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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.


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


作者: 习近平 . . . . . . . .































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


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。


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。

M﹕Rana Mitter



「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」。



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。



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。







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。


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」。






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?



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。


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。


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。


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。



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。




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》。



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。


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。




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。




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。


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


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。



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。



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。





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。



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










Source : Sohu

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

Source : Caixin

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