Increased domestic consumption and sustainable growth are key in the country’s new five-year plan. But can it deliver on two critical issues, beating inflation and affordable housing, author Helen Wang wonders in Forbes and on her weblog.
Reigning in inflation and providing affordable housing are important steps to foster a growing middle class. A major hindrance to increased Chinese consumption, however, is the country’s high saving rate, which reflects the underlying insecurity the Chinese feel about their future.
In writing my book The Chinese Dream: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You, I interviewed over 100 people in China. They are from all walks of life and are the new members of the Chinese middle class. The biggest concern they have is social security. Most people I talked to save 25-50 percent of their incomes for a rainy day, as I wrote here.
Victor Ku, a hotel manager in Guangzhou, told me that he had to save two-thirds of his income. “I have to pay for my own health expenses,” he said. “In China, we don’t have security. If you get sick, you can immediately become poor.”
Can the government deliver? Helen Wang: “Most likely. Judging from its past performance, I would not underestimate the Chinese government’s ability to deliver. Will China become a more open society? Sooner or later, when the Chinese government sees it is in its own interest to let go of control.”