China's National Bureau of Statistics announced the nation's Gini coefficient of 2013 yesterday, which is 0.473, slightly lower than that of 2012. The indicator has continued to decline since 2009, but remains high according to the measurement. It shows that the inequality of income distribution in China is still serious.
The Gini coefficient has become the most popular indicator to measure Chinese economic and social development. The large gap in terms of income has been widely accepted, and how to narrow it is a major focus of China's national strategy. Some people deny the authenticity of the latest data, saying the real situation is much more serious than the data shows.
The data cannot be 100 percent accurate due to uncontrollable factors, so questions cannot be avoided. These questions, if raised to advocate some certain values, will get more support from the public.
Having suspicions about China's Gini coefficient will cause a bigger stir among the public than suspecting China's GDP growth figure, because the former is more closely connected with social equality. Most ordinary people in China consider themselves to be the victims of inequality of income distribution instead of beneficiaries.
Valuing equality the most, China still shoulders the heavy responsibility of reducing the inequality of income distribution, but at the same time, the public must be aware that the current high Gini coefficient is the result of China's opening up and reform, which propelled part of Chinese to riches.
However, such "inequality" is exactly the impetus that drove the Chinese economy to take off. It is much better than the old days when all Chinese people were equally poor.
In actuality, the gap between the rich and poor in China is being narrowed. Facts, such as the obvious rise of labor costs and the income increase of the grass-roots, are more convincing than the simplistic voices which advocate that the gap is enlarging.
The income gap between the middle class and the grass-roots is usually the most apparent indicator to show society's income distribution pattern. Right now, China's middle class is having a hard time. They consider themselves under-privileged, and their resentment has become a major source of the complaints that dominate public debate.
Chinese society has been wary about the gap between the rich and the poor. Now the issue has drawn close attention from both the top leadership and the grass-roots. Measures from both the government and the market are taking effect.
China's expanding middle class has encountered unprecedented challenges after the 2008 financial crisis. How to ensure the well-being of this social class is the key factor that determines whether China can maintain stability. When the middle class swarms into public debate and vents their complaints like a group of penniless vagrants, there won't be positive voices in China.