Are social ills from four decades of rapid economic growth approaching a tipping point?
• Experts warn that problems created by rapid economic expansion may have reached dangerous levels, threatening stability
• A number of not-for-profit start-ups are emerging to address issues as Beijing vows to strengthen efforts on boosting employment, education and social security
25 Jul, 2019 Karen Yeung SCMP
China’s economic and technological growth over the past 40 years has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but the rapid development to become the world’s second largest economy has also created new problems in society, which analysts warn may now be reaching dangerous levels.
Emerging social issues from urbanisation, if they remained unresolved, could threaten the stability of society as the country aims to increase its urbanisation rate from the current 59 per cent to 70 per cent by 2030, implicating another few hundred million people, analysts said.
The rising stakes come as the Chinese economy is growing at its slowest pace in nearly three decades. It is facing uncertainties from the prolonged trade war with the United States and domestic structural problems that are biting into people’s incomes and employment.
Social stability is the foremost priority for Chinese leaders, and a measure of the government’s capability in the eyes of the people. President Xi Jinping said that in 2019 China should strengthen its ability to prevent and defuse any major risks to ensure sustained and healthy economic development and social stability. More efforts should be made in areas including employment, education, social security, medicine, and health care to continuously enhance people’s sense of fulfilment, happiness and security, Xi said.
The Beijing International Institute of Urban Construction in April identified nine factors, including the forced relocation of citizens, conflict between residents and migrants in major cities, adequate medical treatment, and environmental pollution that could spark social unrest.
Wang Chao, professor of management at Peking University’s National Development Research Institute, pointed out that as the consequences of social issues had become increasingly apparent due to China’s economic development, they had also created consumer demand, particularly for services in the education and
as well as calls for policy reforms to address the problems.
One issue of constant risk to Chinese society comes from the developmental and emotional damage inflicted on a generation of children who remain in rural areas while their parents have left for the large number of jobs that rapid urbanisation has created for migrant workers.
The poor quality of infrastructure and parental support have led to these children suffering from a host of psychological problems relating to education, social relationships and even juvenile delinquency. It is estimated that there are about 70 million children living away from at least one parent in China.
Although it is difficult to quantify the economic costs of such issues, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said in a 2017 report that more than 57 per cent of young offenders from the 245 juvenile criminal cases heard between 2009 and June 2017 were children of migrant workers.
“Tremendous and strategic efforts” will be needed for China to shift from a focus on high-speed development to high-quality, sustainable growth, said Angela Bai, secretary general of the China Alliance of Social Value Investment.
“This is something China has to do, as we move towards high-quality [gross domestic product] growth. China is playing catch up [globally]. We need lots of collective efforts and synergy for that … because it means we could lose the future.”
That collective effort has gradually surfaced in the private sector, which could complement efforts from the government.
A number of start-up businesses, investors, and non-governmental organisations had started to jointly tackle the issues, aiming to turn them into sustainable, commercial opportunities – especially in the education and health sectors – and at the same time raise public awareness, Bai said.
For example, Kang Yu, founder of not-for-profit organisation Shi Guang, designs poetry courses that can be easily adopted by minimally qualified teachers for children in the rural and poorer regions. Kang’s online courses have reached 56,000 children in 609 schools across 21 Chinese provinces including Guangdong in the south, western Xinjiang and Southwestern Yunnan. She aims to increase the number of children the programme reaches ninefold by 2021.
“There is greater meaning about teaching poems because it can solve the needs of children from the mountainous areas, giving them some spiritual companionship by allowing them to express their emotions, where such channels are lacking for them,” Kang said.
Another start-up, Renrenzhuang Technology, aims to target the elderly health care sector. The firm provides smart devices, including electronic medicine boxes and alert watches, and operates a cloud platform for data.
Founder Zeng Jingqiang said the health care technology sector was in the early stages of development as most service operators were more focused on building and running nursing homes.
“Serving the elderly is a next big thing in the tech industry in China and it is attracting a flow of capital and resources as well as participants,” he said. “We can provide hardware devices and software support to equip the nursing homes with hi-tech.”
Wang from Peking University also stressed the importance of helping these start-ups, as every contribution to address these societal problems counts. The start-ups are typically focused on solving social issues but lack business planning and commercial experience, and so need help generating and sustaining revenue to keep operating.
“China is in a transitional stage that is causing new problems for its society. This is starting to become really serious,” said Wang. “So far, we haven’t had any real successful or sophisticated plans addressing China’s underlying social issues.”
China should drop nationalistic approach to manage tech war risk with US, Chinese scholars say
• Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University memo says focus should shift away from ‘national industry’ and ‘indigenous innovation’
• Group suggests China must learn a lesson from ZTE and Huawei and ensure firms comply with the laws of other nations if they want to operate globally
Zhou Xin scmp
25 Jul, 2019
The scholars said China must avoid the rhetoric of competing against the US for global technology supremacy, as such propaganda is “against our policy goals”. Photo: Xinhua
China should drop its nationalistic approach of focusing on “national industry” and “indigenous innovation” to manage the risk of a trade and technology decoupling with the United States, according to a group of academic policy advisers, offering insight into the debate on how the country should respond to an increasingly hostile Washington.
The trade war with the US has rumbled on for over a year with its series of tariffs imposed by both sides, while the tensions have extended into advanced technologies, with the likes of ZTE and Huawei caught up in the battle between Beijing and Washington.
“We shouldn’t focus too much on indigenous innovation that is fully under our control. We need to build up a global value chain, not a Chinese one,” according to a memo published by the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University in Beijing.
“We can’t develop China’s hi-tech industry with the mindset that developed China’s first nuclear bomb and satellite [in 1960s].”
China’s successful development of its first nuclear bomb in 1964, despite a US blockade and a reduction in Russian support, has long been hailed as a model for how China can develop advanced technologies on its own.
The scholars also said that China must avoid the rhetoric of competing against the US for global technology supremacy, as such propaganda is “against our policy goals”.
“The ultimate goal of China is to overcome the middle income trap, to enrich the Chinese people, not to compete against the US,” it added.
China is looking to avoid the so-called middle income trap, a development stage where a country attains a certain level of income but then stagnates and remains at the same level because it cannot progress from low-cost manufacturing into hi-technology industries.
Its nominal gross national income (GNI) per capita grew by 9.7 per cent in 2018, according to the World Bank, indicating the world’s second largest economy is gradually heading towards the top end of the middle-income range and could graduate into the high-income bracket within three to four years if it can maintain the current pace. GNI per capita is the value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population, and is meant to reflect the average income of the country’s citizens.
It is unknown whether the government has paid attention to the scholars’ suggestion, however, there is evidence that Beijing has toned down its ambitions. For instance, it stopped promoting the “Made in China 2025” hi-tech industrial development programme under pressure from the Trump administration, although some central government subsidies and local government support for technology development remain.
Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei Technologies that has found itself at the centre of the China-US rivalry, has also urged the Chinese public to drop their nationalistic thinking.
The scholars argued that China must learn a lesson from telecommunication equipment makers ZTE and Huawei and ensure firms comply with the laws of other nations if they want to operate globally.
“China should guide its businesses to obey rules and regulations in cross-border deals as a way to avoid giving excuses [to others] and to mitigate risks,” the scholars added.
They agreed that a complete technology decoupling between China and US was not possible, but the risks of disengagement were growing after the Trump administration denied visas to Chinese students, suspended certain research projects with Chinese scientists and enhanced scrutiny of hi-tech exports to China.
“The US government is able to tighten its control over intellectual property rights, logistics and the financial system on a global scale via administrative and legal means – that would restrict China’s technology development in the short term,” the scholars said.
“At the right time, China should propose to the US that they engage in dialogue over cyberspace security and technology competition … to boost trust and to reduce suspicion.”
The scholars, who made their suggestions at a symposium held last month, included Wang Jisi, an expert on US affairs and a professor at Peking University; Wang Zhile, a veteran government researcher on foreign trade; Liu Yadong, the editor-in-chief of Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of the Ministry of Science and Technology; Zhu Qichao, director of the Centre for National Security and Strategic Studies at the National University of Defence Technology; Fang Xingdong, the founder of Chinalabs.com, a cyberspace think tank; and Zha Daojiong, an international relations professor at Peking University.
personal note: China is facing serious social problems at home, and relationship with USA…what can China do to deal with these issues? peace, steve, july 24, usa email@example.com blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com