Chang Ping: Throwing the Rich in with the Poor

Chang Ping writes for China Media Project:

How exactly can and should the rich and poor learn to live together? This is a tense and intractable global issue, and it is an even tougher problem for China under its current social conditions. Tensions can be glimpsed in particular over the issue of affordable housing in China. China’s government has recently moved to control the housing market, partly out of economic concerns and partly because sky-high housing prices have generated widespread anger.

Now the city of is turning heads with its own somewhat unorthodox answer to closing the housing gap between rich and poor — let rich and poor live together, they say.

According to a policy recently announced by Wuhan’s government, the city will no longer open up areas for the exclusive development of affordable housing. Instead, development projects from now on, whatever their nature, will be required to dedicate a specified proportion of their total development area to affordable and low-rent housing.

The government explained this policy as a way of encouraging rich and poor to live together and benefit equally from public services, including transportation. At the same time, they said, this could help minimize misunderstanding between rich people and poor people.

We can’t say for certain whether this is just an idea right now, or whether there are plans in motion to formalize this policy in actual regulations. In any case, if it is only an idea with nothing concrete behind it, people are likely to shrug it off as lovely but empty rhetoric. However, if it is moving in the direction of actual policy, I hope Wuhan moves quickly to explain the nitty gritty of how it intends to accomplish this.

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