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Across the Pacific

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

One of the most frequently brought up topics in my family is how big a change China has gone through and how different the country is today than my parent’s times there, almost 30 years ago. A once poverty-ridden country has lifted itself to be among the world’s largest economic powers; a once egalitarian society has become vastly divided by wealth, unthinkable to my parents. I remember my trip to China a few years ago when I visited Beijing, one of the most modern metropolises I’ve ever visited. Almost everyone I met from the extended family would ask me about my impression of China and how I would compare the country to the US. Pride was evident when they talked about China’s huge progress in the past several decades, but discontent was also obvious when the conversation inevitably touched upon the country’s wealth disparity.

Out of curiosity, I searched up wealth allocation in China, and it turns out China is not much better than the US when it comes to the wealth gap.

According to a study by USC(1), China has grown its share in global wealth from 3% in 2000 to 18% in 2019, a six fold rise during a period of 19 years. Most people are much better off today than at the turn of the century. The US however saw its share dropped from 36% to 29% during the same period.

Share of Global Wealth

China’s economic growth however hasn’t benefited everyone equally. The top 10% owns an increasing share of the country’s wealth and the bottom 50% owns less. The wealth gap is not as severe as in the US but the difference between the countries is narrowing.

Wealth Inequality

Two of the world's largest economies. Two of the world's widest wealth gaps. Is such inequality a necessary byproduct of economic growth?


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