Liu Shinan

High time to alter income distribution

By Liu Shinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-10 06:45
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Nearly every reader of Internet news has expressed the same intent in their online messages: I want to donate some money to her and her family after learning their story.

Liu Huizhen, an 11-year-old girl in Dancheng county, Henan province, is the only healthy member of her family of five. She does all the household chores and looks after her senile grandparents, both in their 70s, as well as her paralyzed father.

According to a local media report published online the day before yesterday, Huizhen gets up at 6:30 every morning to help her half-paralyzed grandfather put on his clothes and guides her grandmother to the toilet. She cooks breakfast and spoon-feeds her father before going to school.

After school, she cooks supper, washes the clothes, brings her grandparents outside to get some sun, and massages and cleans her bedridden father. After supper, she does her homework.

During the night, she gets up twice to help her father urinate while in his bed. She places the three beds of her grandfather, grandmother and father around hers so that she can get up immediately to attend to the groans for help from any of the three.

The old saying goes: "A poor family's child takes over the household management at an early age." For Huizhen, that age is only too early. She started living like this since the age of six, when her mother deserted the destitute family.

After reading her story, many people asked about the girl's address so they could send money. They also questioned if the local government would do anything to help the poor family out of their plight.

Reports of such stories are not rare in the media. Nearly all of them have triggered people's desire to donate to the needy. And local governments often took steps to offer some help in the wake of strong public reaction. However, neither the government nor the donations could solve the problem fundamentally or permanently. The key is to eliminate poverty.

Fighting poverty seems to be an eternal topic for the world. It has been an emphasized slogan of all revolutionaries in China who vowed to liberate the majority of the population from poverty, ever since the early years of the last century when the 1911 Revolution overthrew the feudal Qing Dynasty and when the Communist Party of China (CPC) was founded in 1921.

Before 1949, the CPC has fought, and promised, to "win power for the poor people". After the victory of the CPC-led revolution, China became an egalitarian society but still remained poor because of the need to build up the national strength in a not-so friendly, geopolitical environment. To accumulate the country's collective wealth, the Chinese had to adopt a frugal lifestyle, which allowed poverty to linger in most Chinese households. After the launch of the reform and opening-up in 1979, China's national economy grew rapidly with each passing year, but the gap between the rich and the poor also widened dramatically.

In the past decade, China's social wealth has accumulated at an even faster rate with State coffers becoming the fattest ever in history. The livelihood of Chinese people has generally improved. The gap between the rich and poor, however, still widens. There are still many families, especially in rural and remote areas, struggling with poverty.

If it was understandable in the first 30 years after 1949 for Chinese people to sacrifice the improvement of their lives to help the country become strong as soon as possible; if it was understandable in the second 30 years that allowing the existence of a gap between rich and poor was necessary to guarantee an efficient growth of the national economy under the market system, it has now become unacceptable that the gap is still allowed to widen.

Our country has now become comparatively powerful in economic strength. Social wealth has become affluent to a certain extent. We must admit the existence of poverty in China is no longer the result of an underdeveloped national economy, but rather the consequence of the unfair distribution of social wealth. Capital investors and high-ranking managers have taken too large a share of it while laboring wage earners are given too small a portion.

It is high time to put the task of changing the wealth-distribution system in our agenda. Serious measures rather than empty talks must be taken.


(China Daily 02/10/2010 page9)