Hainan government announces goals to triple local income levels in next 5 yrs
A family wait for their train in Guangzhou. Guangdong is expected to become the first province to generate GDP of 5 trillion yuan in one year. (File Photo/Xinhua)
China’s rapid economic expansion, to the point where it is now the second-largest economy in the world, has earned the country a more prominent role on the international stage. But its policy of primarily pursuing high GDP growth has also alienated the government from the public.
Increasing numbers of members of the general public now disregard and even sneer at the enviable GDP growth data of their provinces and regions, feeling that these figures have achieved little of significance with regard to their daily lives or improving social welfare.
Before the release of official GDP statistics for 2011, provincial administrators have again started making their forecasts. Many of them are confident of presenting excellent report cards, with six provinces expected to join the exclusive "trillionaires club" by boosting the provincial GDP value for the year to the level of one trillion yuan (US$158 billion).
Of mainland China’s 31 provincial-level regions, the southern province of Guangdong has long been in the country’s economic vanguard. It is expected to emerge as the first province to generate GDP in excess of 5 trillion yuan (US$790 billion) in a year.
It is followed by Jiangsu province in the Yangtze River Delta region and eastern Shandong that may have created GDP of over 4 trillion yuan (US$632 billion) in the past year.
Many provincial governments have announced ambitious goals of doubling per capita income in the next five years. Other specific targets include Hainan’s aim to triple local income levels and Shaanxi’s goal of doubling the per capita income of all residents in cities and townships.
Yet the impressive economic expansion figures have also often covered up the daily problems faced by the general public, who feel local governments and their senior administrators are the major beneficiaries of the high GDP growth. They themselves are disillusioned because they feel that they have received no fair share of the fruits of economic growth.
Most local officials have been pursuing ever higher economic growth to beat their rivals or extend their lead over other areas. Officials in less developed areas are particularly prone to this temptation because they risk being placed at the bottom of the list ranking their performance in terms of economic growth rate.
Such a mentality is reflected in the allocation of economic resources. For the sake of generating overall production value, local governments tend to stick to industries that require high input of resources while creating problems like environmental pollution. Local governments can easily brush aside public needs and may even sacrifice their interests for the sake of spurring GDP growth.
The media in China have in recent years been casting doubt on the idea of pursuing "great leaps" in GDP as critics have come forward to point out that large amounts of capital and energy have been wasted by industries such as textiles, steel, automobiles and cement that are now facing overproduction.
People no longer feel comforted or they should take pride in strings of attractive but cold economic figures that seem to bring them only a rising cost of living. Figures showing the doubling of incomes will be meaningless if they cannot raise the public "happiness index" measuring people’s overall level of satisfaction.