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The Best Way to Write a “How Many Millionaires Are There In China?” Story
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Perhaps I'm channeling my inner Lefty idealist here, but I'm sick and tired of these periodic articles that point to the numbers of millionaires, or billionaires, in China as some sort of indication of the country's new wealth, the success of its economic policies, or as a statistical point to be used to favorably compare China to other nations.

Rubbish.

Frankly, I could give a shit how many millionaires there are. Many better metrics of economic well being exist, starting from per capita income and other measures of poverty.

I was therefore glad to see this Times of India piece picked up by China Digital Times. Note how the usual millionaire numbers are used to point to a legitimate social/economic policy concern (i.e. the income gap):

The personal wealth of the rich in China has continued to expand despite the global economic downturn, and a new study says their number could cross 450,000 by the year-end. .. ”China is arguably the most explosive wealth market in the world, as rising income and a high savings rate will continue to spur development,” said Frankie Leung, partner and managing director of BCG Greater China.

He expected the number of millionaires in China to reach 800,000 over the next four years.

But the study showed that millionaire households represented only about 0.1 percent of all households in China, but held nearly half of the total wealth.

I guess the usual millionaire story is fun, and easy, to write, but let's face it, the huge rise in numbers of millionaires in China is not at all good news. The numbers point to some very distressing trends that could impact social and political stability in the future.

The numbers should definitely be discussed as a long-term problem, and not celebrated as proof that economic liberalization is therefore obviously working exactly as intended.

Note: I'm a big supporter of the theoretical rebalancing of the Chinese economy as put forward by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. These policies may result in slightly slower growth rates and the creation of fewer millionaires, but if successful, we would see a narrowing of the income gap, which would make the downside acceptable in my opinion.

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© Stan for China Hearsay, 2009. |
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