Comic artist Bai Yi's artwork gives a glimpse into a dystopian world where individual lives are considered insignificant before the all-powerful and all-important state machine, and where herculean efforts are needed to uphold the dignity of human lives.
China is tottering between capitalism and old socialism in its pursuit of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, says Lance Gore. Instead of further entrenching a system that feeds nationalism in the name of socialism, it would do well to update to a new socialism in which the concept of employment, wealth and happiness are redefined to better take advantage of the new technological revolution. But is China ready?
Wu Guo notes that equality is very much a mirage, whether in the socialist or liberal democracy conception of the term. The sum total of one’s head start in life is often tied to his or her family background. And often, no amount of levelling up can change that. But this does not mean that equality is of no relevance or should not be aspired to. Adopting an attitude of equality can help ensure that people’s rights are protected, even if the ideal of equality may never be achieved.
The pet economy is thriving in China, driven mostly by the one-child generation who crave an emotional connection and young job seekers taking up “animal communication” gigs during the pandemic. Analysts are optimistic about this sector, where middle class households are more than willing to spend more on the physical and emotional well-being of their furkids. Zaobao correspondent Wong Siew Fong speaks to pet owners and business owners to uncover more about this emerging industry.
Below-the-line marketing tactics of high-end brand Prada sees a wet market in Shanghai wrapping its walls, stalls and vegetables — yes, even the edibles — in Prada packaging. Lucky shoppers also get to receive limited edition Prada paper bags. And it's not just in Shanghai; trendy markets that have cafes, reading areas, exhibition spaces and bars are popping up in first-tier cities all around China.
Rather than wealth redistribution per se, the deeper issue lies in achieving social justice and equal opportunities for all. Going by the US example, it might not be wise or even feasible to curtail the riches of the wealthy or to straitjacket their business environment. Instead, they and other members of the community can be encouraged to help bring about equitable access to education and a better life.
China has set itself the goal of achieving "common prosperity" in the coming years, after realising its goal of "building a moderately prosperous society in all respects". Chinese academic Luo Zhiheng describes this ideal society which is the opposite of a society plagued by a serious wealth gap — people should look forward to improving their quality of life and not worry about their basic needs; social safety nets should also provide basic livelihood protection for the disadvantaged groups. He outlines how China can realise this ideal by harnessing the strength of all who are able and who have "gotten rich first" during the reform and opening up process.
Despite slogans and sayings about how China has progressed and become “amazing” or “self-sufficient”, making strides in eradicating absolute poverty does not equate to rising affluence on the whole. Looking at GDP per capita figures, China still has some way to go, says researcher Chen Hongbin. He notes that the Chinese people should not get caught up in their own rhetoric, but keep a clear head and be aware of the actual situation.
Around 400 to 500 million Chinese citizens are thought to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle today. They are an important political and economic force but their political outlook and worldviews are neither homogeneous nor clear-cut. Many of them share certain cosmopolitan values, but some among them are also those with the most strident nationalistic views. How will this key demographic influence China’s relations with the US and the world? Professor Li Cheng, author of Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping US-China Engagement, tells us more.