Over the last couple of years we have seen an escalation of debate concerning the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. This debate is usually focused on the top 1%, and how the wealthy in the United States are getting wealthier while the rest of us are not keeping pace. However, the numbers I saw this morning coming out of the centrally planned country of China helped me to remember that the “ism” is not the issue, it is human responsibility.
It was reported this morning that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo and his family have assets worth $2.7 Billion. This includes his 90 year old mother, Yang Zhiyun. “The details of how Ms. Yang, a widow, accumulated such wealth, are not known, or even if she was aware of the holdings in her name.” But, it is known that she accumulated the wealth after her son became premier. Jiabo’s family are not the only leaders in China to become rich. “Bloomberg reported that the net worth of the 70 richest delegates in China’s National People’s Congress rose to 565.8 billion Yuan ($89.9 billion) in 2011, a gain of $11.5 billion from 2010.” This averages out to about $1 billion per delegate. Not bad for a year.
We complain about cronyism is this country, but it appears that rent-seeking and kleptocracy is alive and well in China. George Orwell said it best, “Some people are just more equal than others.”
On the other hand China has a growing middle class. “China is used to following an emperor or strong man.” When the Communists took over the country, Mao Zedong became the strong man who led the Chinese people. As Fred Zilan states in the WSJ, “that was the old China. Because of the tremendous double-digit growth China has realized during the past two decades, the country’s middle-class has grown to more than 300 million people today from under 100 million.” This middle class is sending its children to the United States for education. They are studying here and then taking Western ideas home.
China is a country in flux. The leaders are getting richer, and the people are becoming more affluent. Therefore, the country will eventually change its focus from “rudimentary physical and security needs to self-expression values such as freedom of speech and assembly, representative government, and free and fair elections.” I don’t think I will see this in my lifetime, but it is interesting to think about. I did not ever think I would stand in Red Square in Moscow, Russia either talking about Jesus with the Russian people.
I love our country. We can debate taxing the rich without being put in jail. Maybe China will evolve to that some day. We have to wait and see.
And that is my thought for the day!