Chinese officials unveiled a white paper on rural poverty reduction in China this week that makes for interesting reading. A Xinhua article on the white paper states that average per capita incomes in urban China are over three times of those in rural areas of the country. Quoted in the Xinhua article is Fan Xiaojian, head of the Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, who says, “[w]hat we are facing is an arduous task”. With rural-urban economic inequality much on the minds of officials keen to avoid tensions that could lead to the asking of some serious questions about CCP administration, this is no surprise. The Xinhua article continues, “the government will focus on poverty reduction in mountainous areas in the western provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, as well as the Tibet autonomous region and the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region.”
Western Development initiatives also tried to tackle a fault line in Chinese development planning- the different growth rates in western and eastern China. However, in both the recent white paper and western development a point seems to have been missed- the politically sensitive issue of an ethnic fault line in economic development rates (see Ma Rong’s Economic Development, Labor Transference, and Minority Education in the West of China). Although some tacit admission of the fault line was apparent in the initiatives of the 2010 Work Forum, the need for a frank and open discussion of poverty among non-Han Chinese ethnicities should occur. For any such discussion to be meaningful would need the input from non-Han Chinese people, and that seems to be a difficult step for CCP officials to take at present. Sadly, it is the bypassing of these kinds of discussions that leads to the very tensions that those same officials are so keen to avoid.