General Question

crazyguy's avatar

Does China have less wealth inequality than the US?

Asked by crazyguy (1440points) 3 weeks ago

One would think that China is an ideal aspiration of most people who wish for socialist ideas to change America’s economic trajectory. Therefore it is instructive to compare inequality between the US and China.

There are many scholarly articles on the subject. Here is one:

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/2019/04/01/income-inequality-is-growing-fast-in-china-and-making-it-look-more-like-the-us/

Here is a summary of the article’s conclusion:
To summarise, the level of inequality in China in the late 1970s used to be less than the European average – closer to those observed in the most egalitarian Nordic countries – but they are now approaching a level that is almost comparable with the USA.

Another one, (linked below after the quote) says this:

Though the Chinese are unlikely to ever hold demonstrations like Occupy Wall Street, wealth inequality in China has also drawn intense interest from scholars and social scientists.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4589866/

The conclusion of most articles is that wealth inequality in China is approaching that in the US.

So, even if Bernie’s policies were implemented here, you will not be able to prevent the cream from rising to the top.

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18 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

You answer your own question: yes, as your links point out, China has less wealth inequality than the US.

And then you finish with a non-sequitur, ”...even if Bernie’s policies were implemented here, you will not be able to prevent the cream from rising to the top”

That does not follow, because Bernie Sanders was never promoting a Chinese economic model for the US. And people who say that are making up stories.

In the 1970’s, China had less inequality than just about everywhere because everyone was poor. It still has a huge number of poor people, especially in the rural areas. But the major cities have prospered, and some individuals have prospered from it.

SmashTheState's avatar

I’m not even sure where to start. I guess I’ll take it in order.

(1) Your question is rhetorical at best and disingenuous at worst. You’re asking a question the answer to which you believe you already know, and is in the body of your “question.” What you’re doing is the equivalent of push-polling, and should have been in social (if anywhere).

(2) China is neither socialist nor communist. Currently, it’s not even Communist. And yes, there’s a difference between all three of those things.

(3) Amerika has been “socialist” in the sense you mean since before its founding. Police departments, fire departments, health inspectors, even the military are all socialist: centrally-organized services provided equally (in theory) to all citizens from a communal pot funded by the public.

(4) You note that as China has embraced capitalism since the 70s, its wealth inequality has, unsurprisingly, grown to near that of the US. How this is supposed to prove that “socialism” is useless, I have no idea. If anything, it shows that abandoning socialist principles results in the same inequality one sees anywhere else.

(5) Bernie Sanders is not a socialist of any kind, not even an authoritarian socialist. He is a left-leaning centrist whose policies include expanding the current list of socialized services (as I’ve listed previously) to include health care. He is not interested in socialism beyond a few specific services which are controversial only in Amerika.

(6) Capitalism and socialism are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism and communism are. As I’ve indicated, socialism and communism are not the same thing. Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production is privately-owned, resulting in an owning class and a working class, the latter of which can create wealth only with the approval of the owning class. This system has been known by various names throughout history, but is generally referred to as “slavery.”

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society private property is already done away for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its nonexistence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the nonexistence of property for the immense majority of society.” – Karl Marx

(7) More than 60% of all the wealth in Amerika is inherited. This means the “cream” which rises to the top is nothing more than an unofficial nobility, a caste of billionaires whose riches pass from generation to generation, and whose increasing oligarchic control results in a more and more vicious class system in which those who prosper are either born with wealth or make themselves useful by protecting the wealth of those born with it, thereby further entrenching the class system.

Zaku's avatar

“One would think that China is an ideal aspiration of most people who wish for socialist ideas to change America’s economic trajectory.”
– No, absolutely not.
– You don’t know what you’re writing about.
– The idea of anyone in US politics idealizing China is just a stupid disingenuous bullshit line tossed to commie-phobic US idiots who might think it makes any sense at all, in any way, which it does not.
– It’s nonsense.

“So, even if Bernie’s policies were implemented here, you will not be able to prevent the cream from rising to the top.”
– Wow, do you really think that makes any sense?
– Bernie Sanders? No, your sentence has zero to do with anything real. Please stop.

Kropotkin's avatar

China isn’t a socialist economy.

Bernie Sanders does not propose any policies that are somehow defined by the Chinese model.

Neither the US nor China are meritocratic societies, so the idea of “cream rising to the top” is a mere myth that masks the classism inherent in capitalism.

You really do not know what you’re talking about, and your rhetoric and premises in your question are ignorant, and you should be really embarrassed. @SmashTheState has already done a good job of thoroughly deconstructing your post, and addressing and refuting all the claims and premises within it. It was really more effort than you deserved.

You’re really lucky and privileged to have had such constructive and critical feedback. May you learn from it.

rebbel's avatar

“One would think that China is an ideal aspiration of most people who wish for socialist ideas to change America’s economic trajectory.”

Would one?
How’s that?

crazyguy's avatar

@SmashTheState Thanks for a detailed answer. I’ll try and respond to each of your points.

1. I am not push-polling, whatever that means. I have previously asked about sustainable solutions to wealth inequality. I was personally surprised at how unequal China’s people are.

2. “Currently, China is not even Communist.” Here is a definition of communism:

Communism is an economic system in which the distribution of property and resources is primarily controlled by the government.. In China, even though some industry is allowed to be in private hands, it is ultimately controlled by the government.

3. “Amerika has been “socialist” in the sense you mean since before its founding.” Having publicly funded military establishments, police forces, firefighting, health inspections does not make a country socialist. Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

4. and 5. I agree. I over-reached.

6. “Capitalism and socialism are not mutually exclusive.” I disagree. If you read the definition of socialism above, and contrast that with a definition of capitalism: “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”, you can clearly see the differences.

7. Other than inherited wealth, the US has had hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who have risen to the top. That is the cream I am talking about. Why do you think China stayed poor until they opened up industry to entrepreneurs?

I agree that Bernie is not a socialist in the sense he has never advocated nationalizing any industry other than healthcare.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@crazyguy: “I agree that Bernie is not a socialist in the sense he has never advocated nationalizing any industry other than healthcare.”

He doesn’t advocate nationalizing healthcare. He advocates nationalizing health insurance. There’s a huge difference.

crazyguy's avatar

@Kropotkin You say: “Neither the US nor China are meritocratic societies,...” Are you saying that a well-trained, brilliant individual is as destined to stay poor as a laborer with no education and no ideas? Or are you saying education and brilliance are inherited?

@rebbel I admit I got a little carried away.

@Zaku I agree with both your points.

@zenvelo Your last paragraph: “In the 1970’s, China had less inequality than just about everywhere because everyone was poor. It still has a huge number of poor people, especially in the rural areas. But the major cities have prospered, and some individuals have prospered from it.” sums up my opinion of government control of anything. It is a recipe for poverty.

Kropotkin's avatar

@crazyguy @SmashTheState already addressed that.

Class entrenches and amplifies privileges and disadvantages. Poverty is stressful, it affects one’s physical and mental health, and the physical and cognitive development of children in poorer families.

For the rich, it’s the complete opposite.

How many brilliant people will achieve little to nothing because they were born to the wrong class? And how many mediocrities will gain status and influence far beyond their merit because they were born into the right class?

I can’t estimate the former. But I know plenty of rich morons.

Zaku's avatar

@crazyguy That’s not a good definition of communism.

Here are a couple of better ones:

“a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.”

“Communism is a philosophical, social, political, economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money and the state.”

China is not much of a communist state, because, like the USSR, while it uses communist language and ideas, it’s run by a murderous wealth-and-power-ammassing minority.

.

But even IF your definition of communism were accurate, your logic doesn’t follow. You wrote “Communism is an economic system in which the distribution of property and resources is primarily controlled by the government..” (emphasis mine) and then you wrote, “In China, even though some industry is allowed to be in private hands, it is ultimately controlled by the government.” But it’s not that if any industry is controlled by a government, that nation is communist. The public controlling industry is just one feature of the defintion of communism. It’s only in fearful commie-phobic US political short-circuit arguments that government touching business equates to communism.

Not to mention that the people who do speak that way, tend to also mean by “communism” some dystopian Soviet authoritarian nightmare, and portents of economic doom. And they’re almost also the only people suggesting anyone is advocating for communism. They slide “social programs” to mean “socialist” and “communist” (it all becomes about the same label to them). And they tend to point that accusation at anyone politically left of the Republican Party.

For example, the bombardment of stupidity hitting my in-box from the Trump campaign regularly claims Biden and Harris are socialists, and his supporters are “Radical Socialists”, instead of the truth that he’s right-of-center (at most giving some lip service to some popular progressive ideas) and that Bernie Sanders is really a “new deal” style social democrat, not an actual socialist.

For another example, “Wisconsin’s Fr. James Altman, whose angry homily “You cannot be Catholic & a Democrat. Period,” has 280,000 views on YouTube and the endorsement of at least one bishop. In his misleading sermon, Altman sneers that “zero faithful Catholics” voted for Barack Obama, calls the antiracist Southern Poverty Law Center “godless, communist, anti-American,” and attacks pro-LGBTQ priest Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, as a “heretic.”” (Faithful America)

.

I’d strongly recommend the following as well, by history professor and voice of intelligent sanity Heather Cox Richardson:

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/october-27-2020

crazyguy's avatar

@Zaku Thanks for taking the time to respond. In depth.

Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:

1a : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
b : a theory advocating elimination of private property

Not much different from the one I used.

You say: China is not much of a communist state, because, like the USSR, while it uses communist language and ideas, it’s run by a murderous wealth-and-power-ammassing minority. What I get from your statement that a government of the people can be _easily hijacked to become “a murderous wealth-and-power-ammassing (SP) minority”.

In my definition, “public controlling industry” is the only requirement for an economic system to be called communism.

I think the remaining elements of your post are extremely partisan and I cannot respond.

SmashTheState's avatar

There’s an especially hot and deep pit in Hell reserved for those who use dictionary definitions in arguments about specialized fields of knowledge, whether scientific, theological, philosophical, or political.

crazyguy's avatar

@SmashTheState I’ll look forward to that pit!

hmmmmmm's avatar

@SmashTheState – You’d also guarantee yourself an “F” if you tried that shit in college.

cookieman's avatar

or in my classes.

SavoirFaire's avatar

My classes, too. The inadequacy of dictionary definitions, and the fallacious use that people like to make of them, is something I go over before every first writing assignment.

crazyguy's avatar

Sir, may I be excused?

SavoirFaire's avatar

I’m pretty sure you’ve already been schooled and dismissed by @SmashTheState and @Kropotkin, so you’re free to go.

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