EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

Common prosperity, China's ultimate goal

Writer: Wu Guangqiang  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2021-09-06

A host of recent developments have drawn great public attention and sparked varying interpretations of these events.

Since November 2020, Chinese regulators have taken dozens of actions against some major internet giants concerning such aspects as antitrust, finance, data security, social equality and protection of minors. Harsh penalties were imposed on Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Didi Chuxing and Suning for their violation of regulatory rules.

Another shock wave came when a new guideline was jointly issued by the central authorities, which bans off-campus academic training on weekends, national holidays or during winter and summer vacations, requires all curriculum-based tutoring institutions to register as nonprofit organizations and forbids them to raise money from the public. 

Known as the "double reduction," the guideline aims to "effectively reduce" the excessive homework and after-school tutoring burden on students within one year, and to achieve "significant outcomes" within three years.

In recent years stringent regulatory measures have been taken to keep housing prices in check. The policy of "houses for living in, not for speculation" has been stuck to, having successfully curbed the soaring prices.

Government-led medicine purchase negotiations have been under way for years, drastically slashing high drug prices that caused public discontent.

What do the above events mean? Yes, they are meant to crack down on monopolies, relieve pressure on students and make housing more affordable for the majority of the people. But they are not isolated; there is an underlying logic behind them: common prosperity.

Common prosperity is China's ultimate goal, which, as President Xi Jinping puts it, is an essential requirement of socialism and a key feature of Chinese-style modernization.

Concrete objectives include ensuring and improving people's living standards, strengthening and developing new social governance approaches, winning the battle against poverty, promoting social fairness and justice, and making steady progress in ensuring people's access to child care, education, employment, medical services, elderly care, housing and social assistance.

Given the current situation, much more needs to be done, as it involves a significant historical transition.

When China began to reform and open to the outside world, the country's primary task was to emancipate productivity and eradicate the general poverty. Therefore, efficiency was the top priority. The top-down reform aimed at clearing off every obstacle hindering the reform. It was the State policy to let some people and some regions prosper before others, so that they could help the others to catch up.

Some of those who worked hard have become lucky beneficiaries of the policy, getting rich, richer and richest. Private economy has been thriving and capital is chasing maximum and immediate profit, which is driven by its nature.

As a result, negative outcomes gradually surfaced. The internet platforms turned from innovation pioneers into monopolists that used their supremacy to strangle their competitors. Profit-chasing investment inundated the education sector, driving students and their parents increasingly anxious about "failure" in the cut-throat academic competition. Skyrocketing housing prices virtually deprived many young people of their hopes for the future. Exorbitant health expenses discouraged many patients from seeking medical treatment.

In a word, unless timely reform is adopted, fairness will be an unachievable goal and the majority of the people will lose access to the benefits of economic and social development. The lion's share of the cake will be enjoyed only by a handful of the superrich.

Observed in the historical context, the above-mentioned events are part of China's long-term blueprint for development. Monopoly, imbalanced growth, unfair access to opportunities and benefits, as well as serious factors such as an aging, declining population, are eroding China's development potential and innovative vitality.

Some institutional arrangements are being made to promote common prosperity including taxation, insurance and wealth distribution.

Yet, common prosperity should be achieved while pursuing high-quality growth and never will China fall back to the old practice of "eating from a big pot." Fairness and efficiency can go hand in hand.

(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)