China to prevent falling into trap of welfarism in pursuing common prosperity
Having long been high on the Chinese government agenda, 共同富裕 common prosperity has gained particular attention since 2021 from both home and abroad as the leadership has put it in a more prominent position. An essential requirement of socialism and a key feature of Chinese-style modernization, common prosperity refers to affluence shared by everyone both in material and cultural terms.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner, held a press conference (link in Chinese) Thursday on supporting the eastern province of Zhejiang to build a demonstration zone for promoting common prosperity. It is a latest official explanation of the common prosperity policy so far, including both conceptual contents and concrete goals and measures.
Last year, I worked as a journalist in Zhejiang for three months, covering the province's efforts to promote common prosperity. The experience in Zhejiang has piqued my curiosity in following up on this subject. I also recognize that outsiders are curious about this concept and may be perplexed by it, so I believe it is my obligation to assist them in learning more about this vital initiative.
This newsletter will offer you a partial translation of the press conference. It is selected, translated and highlighted by Ginger River.
Question (Zhejiang TV reporter): We understand that Zhejiang is preparing to introduce the action plan of 扩中 "expanding middle-income group" and 提低 "raising salary of low-income group," which is structured around the development of the experimental zone for income distribution system reform. What are the specific contents of the action plan?
Xie Xiaobo (deputy chief of Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission): Building the experimental zone for income distribution system reform is one of the "four major strategic roles" set by the central government for Zhejiang to build the demonstration zone for promoting common prosperity and a key task for us.
In July 2021, our province began to draft the action plan of "expanding middle-income group" and "raising salary of low-income group." Our goal is to form an olive-shaped social structure with the middle-income group as the mainstay. We set quantitative objectives to achieve that goal. By 2025, 80 percent of households in the eastern province will see their annual disposable income reach 100,000 yuan (about 16,000 U.S. dollars) to 500,000 yuan. The proportion of households with an annual disposable income of 200,000 yuan to 600,000 yuan will reach 45 percent.
中国青年报记者: 浙江目前对高校毕业生、进城农民工、新就业形态劳动者等 重点群体的就业帮扶政策有哪些，实施效果如何？
Question (China Youth Daily): What are the employment assistance policies for college graduates, migrant workers, labors with new forms of employment and other key groups in Zhejiang, and how well did they work?
Chen Zhong (deputy director of Human Resources and Social Security Department of Zhejiang): Employment is the most important aspect of people's livelihood. The Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to employment, especially the employment situation of college graduates, migrant workers and labors with new forms of employment. Zhejiang earnestly implements the central government's decision and deployment, and constantly improves the policy system and measures for the employment of key groups, which has achieved good results.
College students who want to start a business can get a loan from 100,000 to 500,000 yuan (about 16,000 to 79,000 U.S. dollars). If the business fails, the government will cover the full loss of the loan which is under 100,000 yuan and 80% of the loss above 100,000 yuan. For the college students who start a business in household management, elderly care service and modern agriculture industry, the government gives them 100,000 yuan as subsidy. For college students who are employed in those areas, the government gives them 10,000 yuan per person per year as subsidy for three consecutive years.
Zhejiang is a large province of labor, and there are 23 million migrant workers in Zhejiang, who have made important contributions to the economic and social development of the province. In Zhejiang, migrant workers from areas outside the province enjoy the same employment and entrepreneurship services and policies as workers who are local registered residence. In addition, we have developed job positions without regard to skills, educational background or age to provide opportunities for people who have been lifted out of poverty, guaranteeing them a monthly salary of more than 4,500 yuan (about 710 U.S. dollars). Last year, 2.25 million people in the province were lifted out of poverty.
Question (China National Radio) : For common prosperity, some think that it means that people can "躺平" "lying flat" (a term to describe the youngsters who give up ambitions and do the bare minimum to get by) and “等靠要” "wait, rely on and request" (a term to describe the impoverished areas which reject hard work and just wait for, rely on and request financial aid from the authorities at a higher level), and some people think that the government will engage in “福利主义” "welfarism." How does the NDRC view this?
Ha Zengyou (director of the Employment Department of the NDRC): Thank you for your question! We have noted that these ambiguous perceptions do exist in society. I will take this opportunity to clarify them on two aspects.
On the one hand, what must be made clear is that common prosperity is contingent on concerted efforts. Happy life rests on endeavors, and common prosperity depends on hard work and wisdom. General Secretary Xi Jinping has long reminded us that the Chinese people have known since ancient times that there is no such thing as sitting idle and enjoying all the benefits of life. Happiness requires hard work. Common prosperity can not be achieved by waiting or calling. It must be achieved through hard work.
To achieve the goal of common prosperity, what must be done in the first place is to work together with the people of the country to make the cake bigger and better. Only when everyone participates and does their best, can everyone share the fruits of endeavors. Next, we should vigorously promote the spirit of achieving prosperity through hard work in the whole society, and encourage all labors to create a happy and beautiful life through honest efforts, legal business, innovation and entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, what must be adhered to is to promote common prosperity to the best of our ability and do what we can. We must bear in mind China's national conditions, follow the laws of economic and social development, take solid steps and make lasting efforts to steadily improve people's livelihood. “To the best of our ability” means that we will ensure and improve people's well-being in the course of development, and take more vigorous and concrete measures to improve the people's sense of fulfillment, happiness, security and identity.
"Do what we can" means that we must be fully aware that China's level of development is still far from the developed countries. We must secure and improve people's livelihoods on the basis of economic development and financial sustainability. We can not be overly ambitious, overly stimulate appetite, or make promises that can not be fulfilled. Even if the development in the future became better and financial resources became stronger, we should not mention over high goals, engage in excessive protection, and we must resolutely prevent falling into the trap of "welfarism" to feed lazy people.
For local party committees and governments, in the process of promoting common prosperity, it is important to stick to do what is appropriate and discard what is inappropriate. It is key to focus on strengthening basic, inclusive and minimum-level protection of people's livelihood. The key lies in enhancing the level of public service, especially accurately providing basic public services in education, health care, pension, housing, and other areas which are people’s primary concerns. At the same time, we must effectively secure the basic living standards of people in need. What is highly important is to create more inclusive and equitable conditions for all people to improve their education and capacity for self-development. We need to build up a system to create a fair and just platform for people to work and start their own businesses, so that everyone can have an opportunity to achieve success in life through unremitting efforts.