Chinese authorities are calling on the burgeoning middle class to help out the country's poor.
China, the greatest economic success story of the 21st century so far, is calling on its growing middle class to share more of its good fortune with the needy. The government has made an appeal for charity amid rising criticism that the spirit of philanthropy is developing a lot less quickly than the urge to accumulate wealth, as the country becomes richer but more divided.
Twenty-five years of spectacular economic growth are estimated to have created more than 10,000 people with assets in excess of $10m. But while the new rich are spending, investing and gambling more than ever, their willingness to give something back to a society which still contains tens of millions of people living on less than a dollar a day is being called into question.
"We ask for greater support from charity-based organisations and from society," a govt. minister said. "The Chinese government will make new policies, such as the introduction of tax breaks, and try to create a more a encouraging social climate for corporate donations."
The appeal would have been unthinkable a generation ago, when the Communist authorities boasted that they would provide for every social need, and displays of wealth would have been condemned as bourgeois and counter-revolutionary. But the private sector now accounts for more than half of China's economy. Although tax revenues have grown, public spending has not prevented a widening gap between rich and poor, particularly with regard to health and education.
[Excerpt of an article by Jonathan Watts, Guardian Unlimited]