Inequality in China 贫富分化的中国
To each, not according to his needs
A new survey illuminates the extent of Chinese income inequality
Dec 15th 2012 | HONG KONG | from the print edition
THANKS to apartheid, broken job markets and monopolistic mining, South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The top 10% of households pocketed 58% of the income in 2008, according to researchers at the University of Cape Town. The country’s Gini coefficient, which measures inequality on a scale of 0 to 1, was 0.7.
But South Africa’s inequality may soon be equalled by an unexpected rival: communist China. According to a new survey, the top tenth of Chinese households took home 57% of
the income in 2010. The country’s Gini coefficient was 0.61,
far higher than previous estimates (which ranged from 0.41 to 0.48).
The survey, known as the China Household Finance Survey (CHFS), was overseen by Gan Li of Texas A&M University and Southwestern University in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Modelled on the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which covers almost 6,500 American families every three years, the CHFS covers 8,438 households in China, excluding Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong and Macau.
Surveying China’s multitudes is a daunting task. Having randomly selected 320 neighbourhoods to visit, MrGan’s team discovered that some had only half as many homes as the official data suggested, others had twice as many. Not everyone was willing to answer questions. The Southwestern students who carried out the interviews, which were done in 2011, had doors shut in their faces and insults hurled in their direction. They were obliged to try each household six times before giving up.
In rural Yunnan province the students travelled high into the mountains, where their questions about financial assets and rates of return were often met with incomprehension. One villager claimed he had no bank deposits. The interviewer assumed he was being evasive—until the villager retrieved a plastic bag with all his cash and began counting it.
Urban respondents were more recalcitrant: in the cities 16.5% of the original sample refused to take part, compared with only 3.2% in the countryside. Even so, these figures compare well with the 30% who refuse to take part in the Fed’s survey. Indeed, the students’ success in reaching households may explain why China’s inequality appears so high. Other surveys may miss a greater percentage of the very poor or the very rich. 和农村相比，调查员们在城市遭遇的抵制更多。在城市，原先选定的样本住户中有16.5%拒绝配合，而农村不配合的只有3.2%。尽管如此，与美联储的调查30%的抵制率比起来，这些数据已经相当令人欣慰了。确实，或许正是由于这一次学生们成功做到了深入家家户户，中国贫富差距之大才得以揭示。其他的调查可能遗漏了很大一部分社会最底层和最高层的人群。
The survey confirmed that Chinese households have rather little debt. Their liabilities amount to less than 5% of their assets, compared with over 16% in America. Remarkably, the combined wealth of China’s households (all their assets, minus their debts) came to $69.1 trillion in 2010. That is about 20% more than the net worth of American households.
1. (Gini Coefficient)为意大利经济学家基尼（CorradoGini，1884-1965）于1922年提出的，定量测定收入分配差异程度。其值在0和1之间。越接近0就表明收入分配越是趋向平等，反之，收入分配越是趋向不平等。按照国际一般标准，0.4以上的基尼系数表示收入差距较大，当基尼系数达到0.6 时，则表示收入悬殊。
2. （Survey of Consumer Finances）是美联储对美国家庭的收入、资产、负债情况进行的一项抽样、问卷调查，每三年进行一次，每次调查覆盖约6500个美国家庭。