February 20, 2021


China's booming GDP masks millennial 'despair' over personal prospects (Xi Xican, Feb. 13th, 2021, SCMP)

With few other outlets to express opinions, social media platforms like Bilibili have become important online gathering places for young Chinese. And while they can be home to dizzying displays of nationalism, they also provide brief windows into what some political analysts say is the "serious divergence" between China's booming economy and the personal prospects of ordinary people.

"I believe young people's confidence in the macroeconomy comes from the bottom of their hearts, because they look at it from the perspective of the central government," said Xi Xican, an assistant professor at the School of Economics at Fudan University.

"However, when they shift roles and go back to their own life, the distress is all too real." [...]

Wu Qiang, a political observer and an independent scholar based in Beijing, said the optimism about China's economy on social media was mostly "Communist Party propaganda", with many other topics out of bounds due to the nation's vast online censorship system.

"The nationalism on Chinese media is a nihilistic statism, which is to conceal inequality through empty slogans without giving real equality and political rights to the people. This is reflected in the suffering people feel in their lives," he said.

He said China's strong growth under state capitalism was a "paradox" for many young people, who lacked comprehensive labour rights and work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

China's relatively low household incomes and the small share of employment in the services sector also hint at the divergence between the nation's booming economy and the life satisfaction of the average worker.

GDP per capita in China was around US$10,200 in 2019, compared to US$63,200 in the United States, according to the most recent World Bank data.

In 2019, China's private consumption accounted for about 39 per cent of GDP, which was about 30 percentage points lower than the US and Europe, according to data from CEIC. It was also about 20 percentage points lower than developing countries such as India and Brazil.

"This means although China produces a large number of goods and services every year, the share actually consumed by its own residents is much lower than in other countries," said professor Xi, from Fudan University.

Posted by at February 20, 2021 7:34 AM