Middle-class

A supporter of US President Donald Trump carries a teddy bear and a semi-automatic rifle at a "Stop the Steal" protest after the 2020 US presidential election was called for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC), in Phoenix, Arizona, US, 9 November 2020. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Globalisation and the American blue-collar workers who voted for Trump

US-based academic Wu Guo observes that white Americans without a university education are still the group in the country most vulnerable to the ill-effects of globalisation. With manufacturing moving overseas to countries such as China, many of these Americans doing “hands-on jobs” as blue-collar workers lost their jobs and had their middle-class dreams shattered. At the same time, they are not able to leapfrog to hi-tech manufacturing that calls for specialised skills. How can this serious issue be tackled? Would bringing back manufacturing jobs from China help?
People walk in Qianmen area in Beijing, China, 4 October 2020. A significant rebound in domestic travel over the Golden Week holiday is fueling optimism that consumers are starting to spend again after the pandemic-induced slump. (Yan Cong/Bloomberg)

Socialism and Nazism: Branches of the same tree?

While Nazism and socialism fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, they are more alike than they seem. Hong Kong commentator Chip Tsao points out that both ideologies began with similar intentions, but took divergent paths to meet their objectives and garnered different reactions from the West.
A man smokes at a stall selling frozen wonton near a hutong neighborhood in Beijing, 5 June 2020. (Tingshu Wang/REUTERS)

Persistent poverty and a weak middle class: China's fundamental challenge

Zheng Yongnian says China must not get ahead of itself. Recent statistics prove that 600 million people indeed earn a monthly income of just 1,000 RMB. China’s earlier reforms had led to equitable growth, but income disparity has increased with rapid economic development since it joined the WTO. As it stands, the bottom strata of Chinese society remain huge while China’s relatively small middle class continues to suffer in an inadequate social system. Rather than sweep these issues aside in a bid to glorify the country’s achievements but downplay its shortcomings, China must take a hard look at itself and focus on pursuing equitable growth.
A woman cycles past a screen showing a news conference by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after the closing session of the National People's Congress, in Beijing, China, on 28 May 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

600 million Chinese earn 1,000 RMB a month — so are the Chinese rich or poor?

Zaobao's Beijing correspondent Yang Danxu often marvels at the spending power of Chinese white-collar workers around her, and she too was surprised when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang remarked that China has 600 million people with a monthly income of 1,000 RMB. That is more than 40% of the Chinese population, and the figures portray a reality that is starkly different from common perception. Are Chinese people moving up the income ladder and are their lives becoming better as is the common refrain? Yang examines the facts.
People with face masks are seen at a square near residential buildings under construction in Xianning, Hubei, China, on 25 March 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Property now a liability for China’s middle class

With salary cuts, housing loans on their backs and little means of generating cash flow, middle-class workers across China’s cities are walking the tightrope of trying to maintain their living standards while keeping up with their mortgage payments. The recently-announced stimulus plan may not solve their housing woes either.
Motorists wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus travel along a busy traffic intersection in Hanoi on 13 May 2020. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

China should be worried about political developments in Vietnam, not economic rivalry

Vietnam is fast becoming the factory of the world and is well-placed to capitalise on changes to global supply chains. Chinese academic Qiao Xinsheng feels that contrary to popular opinion, though Vietnam is striving to be the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia, it is not going to be an economic threat to China any time soon. What China should look out for, is how the Vietnam government negotiates domestic political and social reforms, and whether the Communist Party of Vietnam is able to avoid the kind of tragedy that befell the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The typical person is irrational, rapacious and does not abide by the law. While he keeps the interior of his apartment magnificent, he goes outside and leaves a shambolic mess without a sense of public order. (iStock)

The "hooligan middle class" will drag down China’s economic development

Prof Zheng Yongnian bemoans the “culturally-bereft” middle class in China, and labels them the “hooligan middle class”. He opines that the absence of a cultural middle class is the reason why China lacks originality in technology and innovation, why the intellectual community produces little useful knowledge, and why China has not been able to advance towards qualitative economic growth. He offers the solution.
People chant slogans and hold the words "release (the protesters)" near a police-cordoned area to show support for a small group of protesters barricaded for over a week inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hung Hom district in Hong Kong on November 25, 2019. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

Social protests in the era of affluence

Social movements of today are no longer campaigns by the downtrodden poor but avenues for the well-educated middle class to air their anti-establishment discontent. Aided by social media, these groups appropriate concepts without understanding their true meanings, and look set to stay due to structural imbalance in the world caused by globalisation, technological progress and social divide. Zheng Yongnian opines that states badly need institutional reforms if they are to engage the social movements of today.
The gulf between Lin and Ferguson’s views is actually a reflection of China and the US' opposing values and development model. (iStock)

Justin Yifu Lin and Niall Ferguson’s 200,000 RMB bet

With 200,000 RMB (approximately S$40,000) at stake, two academics wager on the prospect of China’s economy surpassing the US’ in 20 years.