China Leadership Monitor

Continuing Pressures on Social Order

Friday, April 30, 2004

The recently published edition of the Blue Book of Chinese Society, an annual survey of social problems and attitudes published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), gives ample evidence that social problems continue to worsen even as the new government focuses more attention on the plight of those left behind in China's struggle for economic growth and modernization. There are positive signs as well. Overall, incomes are up (according to official statistics); the middle class, depending on how one defines it, is growing; and most people continue to expect incomes to grow. Moreover, the government is increasing the resources it expends on social welfare. Nevertheless, a host of problems challenges China's new leadership, including income inequality, labor disturbances, rural disorder, and corruption. But the most difficult issue remains jobs. China's booming economy just does not create enough jobs relative to overall growth or the needs of the society. Thus, social order appears to be a long-term political problem for China.