The life of Zhang Jiale: Growing public unrest in China over increasing inequalities

9 Mar

Bling lifestyle of Chinese heiress Zhang Jiale goes viral

Over the past week images of Zhang Jiale, the 22 year old daughter of the electronics, property and insurance magnate Zhang Jun, have gone viral across China after she posted up photographs of her excessively luxurious lifestyle on Weibo, the Chinese version of twitter. The images have added credence to the growing debate around the “fu’erdai” or “rich second generation” who have inherited great wealth from the industrialists and entrepreneurs of the 1980s and 1990s. Comments on the blog ‘China Smack’ (see link below) have highlighted public anger over issues of inequality as well as corruption.

“Our compatriots don’t hate the rich, what they hate is the unfairness behind the wealth.
Our compatriots don’t hate the officials, what they hate is the privilege behind the officials.”

This has come at an interesting time in the evolution of Chinese social and economic history. In February policies were announced by the State Council to reduce inequality through a 35-point income distribution plan. In this the State Council intends to raise the minimum wage to 40% of urban salaries by 2015, increase interest rates for savings accounts and ask state owned companies to give more back to the government. Even with these efforts concerns are still being raised from abroad as the Chinese Regime in 2012, for the eleventh year running, have refused to publish China’s Gini Coefficient which is a common measure for income inequality. In a country where it is estimated more than 13% of the population live under the poverty line with an annual income of around 360 US dollars, there is a desperate need for factual information on inequality such as the Gini Coefficient to be published.

It is hoped that with Xi Jingping’s new ‘hard line’ approach to corruption there will be a stabilisation in the increase between rich and poor, however evidence is still yet to be seen.

Two links to Youtube videos about Chinese inequality:


6 Responses to “The life of Zhang Jiale: Growing public unrest in China over increasing inequalities”

  1. nw8g11 March 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Interesting article but I do question the governments response to tackling inequality by asking for a larger percentage of profits from state owned companies. The wealth in China increased exponentially when many sectors were privatised and this is where wealth like that of Zhang Jiale has come from. Therefore maybe a higher corporation tax for private companies would do more to settle inequality.

  2. jc35g10 April 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    There is still a long way to go to tackle China’s social inequality. Although rural and urban differences can be argued to have declined recently, this appears only to only have occurred because of rural workers finding jobs in cities and bringing money back, rather than rural areas and quality of life improving.

    The rise of inequality in China was worrying in 2005, when the World Bank described it as the “fastest increase in the world”, and it is still troubling today. The rich are seemingly continuing to get richer, as seen in the article, whilst the poor suffer with small incomes and a lack of healthcare. It is important that this unequal distribution of capital is rectified in the near future, as the uneven social development that it has cause could result in a long-term negative impact on economic growth.

    Source: Editorial Group, 2005, ‘Some Issues of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development: Questions and Answers’, Xinhua Publishers, Beijing, China

  3. Zoe Skousbo April 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    The “trickle down” is trickling down too slowly for many Chinese as the gap between the rich and poor grows increasingly and becomes more apparent in the so called ‘Socialist’ State. Such a divide is a by-product of capitalism, an ideal that is increasingly rampant in Chinese society and is fuelling the upper echelons increased distance from the hundreds of millions of rural and urban poor. The ‘Me’ generation, the children of entrepreneurs who took advantage of the country’s increasingly relaxed rules on individual prosperity, have taken a progressively blasé view of politics and social systems that have benefitted them whilst consigning their fellow countrymen to poverty. It seems promising that the Government has addressed the problem in the social structure by substantially increasing the minimum wage, and even more so in the fact that after ten years the country has finally published statistics on inequality in the Gini coefficients. There are now a reported 670,000 million dollar households in China, higher than all other countries apart from the US and Japan. This is a great success for those who have made a fortune through entrepreneurial means but it is sure to anger those in the lower rungs of society who are finding it increasingly hard to move up the social and economic ladder. Consequently, China is the most polarized country in the world in terms of wealth distribution.

    Sources: – CBN News

  4. iyh1g10 April 17, 2013 at 2:06 am #

    Although efforts appear to be made in an attempt to reduce corruption, the articles below acknowledge that there remain billionaires that have not been investigated due to the reluctance of some citizens to reveal the true extent of their wealth in an attempt to avoid government attention or governmental links being drawn. This is most notably so in regards to the wealth of those connected with the senior leadership. Even those who obtained money honestly have chosen to be more discreet to divert scrutiny, a shift from in 2009 when the nouveau-riche (bao fa hu) would lavish in showing off labels and price tags. The urge for hiding could also be influenced by the change in government and some might find that you cannot be too careful. Interestingly enough, following the revelation of a curiously low-paid government official who was photographed wearing a range of designer watches, public relations companies have emerged, providing the service of erasing blog posts and photos from the web. Therefore, eliminating any form of evidence should anti-corruption officers conduct investigations.

    Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore.

    Rise in Billionaires tests China’s Rich and Poor Divide:

    Why China is now discreetly hiding its wealth.

  5. st24g10 April 24, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Agreeing with a comment previously made, regional inequalities still largely exist in China and remain extremely prevalent. Inequalities have reportedly risen in the past two decades, which contradicts the strategy of the market orientated reforms. This should ideally be facilitating all areas of the population, however, regional disparity remains. According to research, there are large gaps between the levels of income of those living in urban to rural settings. Additionally, the level of income varied between those who lived inland in a more central region, to those that lived in coastal district.

    Urban to rural ratio of income and consumption showed an abnormally high statistic between 2 and 3.5 (since the reform) in comparison to other countries globally. Per capita production and consumption showed that coastal areas were far richer and at a greater economic position than those seen in the interior provinces, therefore were more vulnerable during the reform period.

    Source: Yang, D, 2002, China Economic Review, What has caused regional inequality in China? Department of Economics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Pamplin Hall 0316, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA

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