China keeps them down on the farm – Philip Bowring
From the International Herald Tribune (link):
Necessity as well as good sense lies behind China’s decision in its latest five year plan, revealed at the National People’s Congress, to play down numerical growth goals and target instead the wealth gap and social and environmental issues. But the new goals look likely to be out of reach without more fundamental policy changes to address rural poverty.
See also “China’s “New Socialist Countryside“” from Business Week:
The reality of what is at stake hit home for me during a recent visit to the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a rural, relatively poor area in northwest China on the upper reaches of the Yellow River; 5.8 million citizens and about 30 different ethnic groups call this region home. It’s primarily an agricultural economy, and it’s also a microcosm of all the ills confronting other poor areas. Entrenched poverty, environmental degradation, and a frayed social safety net all conspire to make life a challenge for the less fortunate in Ningxia and places like it.
A lot is made of China’s growing income inequality, and there’s no doubt the gap has widened since the mainland began its modernization drive more than two decades ago. But inequality, per se, is not the problem — developing countries rarely grow without it. And the vast majority of China’s rural dwellers have seen significant increases in their incomes. More urgent is that a relatively small group of people can’t quite manage to break free of poverty, while others around them in urban China and even in nearby rural communities are steadily getting wealthier.