Correlation: Inequality and the Internet in China

posted at 7:31 pm on January 23, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Whatever its many extravagant promises to the contrary in principle, ain’t no inequality like communist inequality in practice. For the first time since 2000, the Chinese regime has finally bothered to release a basic measure of inequality from within its communist realm, and — surprise — the picture is not a pretty one:

The Gini coefficient is a commonly used measure of income inequality, with a figure of 0 representing perfect equality and 1 total inequality. Some academics view 0.40 as a warning line.

China’s peaked at 0.491 in 2008 before falling in recent years to 0.474 in 2012, Ma Jiantang, chief of the National Bureau of Statistics, told reporters as he announced readings for the decade from 2003.

The figures “showed the income gap is rather big”, he said at a press conference on the country’s economic growth. …

Other organisations have published their own readings in the interim, with some sharply higher than the official data.

And I think it’s safe to assume that the “official data” from the reliably deceitful and manipulative Chinese government isn’t quite accurate; a recent survey from a research center founded by the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics and the Institute of Financial Research, which operates under China’s central bank, estimated the coefficient at 0.61 in 2010. Ouch.

The plutocratic Chinese regime has been struggling a lot lately with their handling of their profound Internet censorship and the accompanying social unrest, and they’re trying to figure out how to balance their latent desire to maintain their totalitarian chokehold with the increasingly obvious modern fact that free speech and the free flow of information are conditions much more conducive to economic growth, competition, and prosperity. The Atlantic has a great post up showcasing the positive correlation between Internet penetration and the corresponding level of economic development throughout China’s various regions — check that out:

While web penetration in Beijing surpassed 72% in 2012, fewer than 30% of residents in the interior province of Jiangxi are internet users. To put those figures in perspective, Beijing’s internet usage is comparable to that of Hong Kong or Israel. Jiangxi, on the other hand, lags behind Uzbekistan, Bolivia, and Tuvalu.

In terms of the production of online content, the gap is even wider. Beijing-based websites host over 38 billion web pages, or an average of 1,890 pages per city resident. Tibetan-based sites host fewer than 3.5 million pages, or just over one page per person. …

Does this mean there are two Chinas? The Connected China — where residents are relatively wealthy, connected to the world of social media and can access outside information despite government censorship, and the Disconnected China — where residents are relatively poor, still reliant on heavily regulated state-media for information and closed off to new ideas?

The Chinese government wants very badly to get on the United States’ economic level, but how to efficiently do so without easing up on the many institutional checks hindering their people’s ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship (and uh, oh yeah — their basic human rights)? Such a conundrum for them.


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…blueprint for JugEars new Czar!

KOOLAID2 on January 23, 2013 at 7:37 PM

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Whatever its many extravagant promises to the contrary in principle, ain’t no inequality like communist inequality in practice.

Coming soon to America…

SWalker on January 23, 2013 at 7:38 PM

The Chinese government wants very badly to get on the United States’ economic level, but how to efficiently do so without easing up on the many institutional checks hindering their people’s ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship (and uh, oh yeah — their basic human rights)? Such a conundrum for them.

…no problem!…JugEars is trying his best… to meet them half-way

KOOLAID2 on January 23, 2013 at 7:41 PM

The Chinese government wants very badly to get on the United States’ economic level, but how to efficiently do so without easing up on the many institutional checks hindering their people’s ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship (and uh, oh yeah — their basic human rights)? Such a conundrum for them.

So in other words, they’re hitting the same wall they hit centuries ago, when they suddenly pulled in like a box turtle instead of soldiering out into the world and probably taking a bunch of it.

The Internet is making their deficient culture run up against the impossible goals of Western levels of prosperity with brutal levels of suppression and censorship. New ways vs. old. Last time, “Old ways” won the argument and until Marco Polo took a long walk we barely knew they existed. I wonder if the outcome will be different this time?

MelonCollie on January 23, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Are we moving on to Social Media Justice now?

Flange on January 23, 2013 at 7:52 PM

they’re trying to figure out how to balance their latent desire to maintain their totalitarian chokehold with the increasingly obvious modern fact that free speech and the free flow of information are conditions much more conducive to economic growth, competition, and prosperity.

I missed this, since I didn’t watch the inauguration.

Wino on January 23, 2013 at 8:09 PM

The Gini coefficient is a commonly used measure of income inequality, with a figure of 0 representing perfect equality and 1 total inequality.

Newsflash: Private INCOME does not create economic equality. What matters is how much SPENDING an incredibly tiny number of government officials control.

Oh, and here’s another little tip: the fact that the government’s “Fearless Leaders” are controlling OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY doesn’t make things more equal; it makes things a whole, whole lot less equal.

logis on January 23, 2013 at 8:13 PM

China doesn’t care a bit about getting on the United States’ economic level (whatever that actually means). China is China centric. There are one billion Chinese who live in an agrarian society and face utter poverty. The 400 million who live in what we consider middle class thrive because of hukou, the household registration system that prevents the country dwellers from joining them permanently in the cities. People who look no different from each other, but are separated by different hukou. Free healthcare for one, pay as you go for the other. It is a huge societal problem that sooner or later will have to be dealt with. Westerners focus on the Chinese who have city hukou, and ignore the rest.

An Objectivist on January 23, 2013 at 10:39 PM

The 400 million who live in what we consider middle class
An Objectivist on January 23, 2013 at 10:39 PM

Who are the “we” in that sentence? A third of China’s population don’t live in anything near what *I* consider middle-class.

logis on January 24, 2013 at 5:53 AM

The Internet is making their deficient culture run up against the impossible goals of Western levels of prosperity with brutal levels of suppression and censorship. New ways vs. old. Last time, “Old ways” won the argument and until Marco Polo took a long walk we barely knew they existed. I wonder if the outcome will be different this time?

MelonCollie on January 23, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Deficient? You know, I’ve learned a lot in the past many years about China. I can thank my friend DarkCurrent for that.
I don’t have any illusions to the fact that they do have problems.
But so do we.
I will say this about cultures in general vs Western ideals.
Freedom & Liberty as defined by America may not be something people in other countries en masse may want or wish to fight for.
See the muslim countries for that.
It’s not our job to help other countries to become liberated. Unless they ask for our help, & it should be limited.
China is a much older civilization & it’s real easy to point fingers.
Let’s not forget something: America had a HUGE hand in helping China become communist.
That is shameful. And you have FDR to thank for a lot of that nonsense.

Badger40 on January 24, 2013 at 8:05 AM

Gee Erika, how did you fail to mention that the US Gini coefficient is also estimated to be around 0.49, or practically the same as China?

Didn’t you simply fail to look it up? Or did you look it up and then decide not to report it?

DarkCurrent on January 24, 2013 at 9:15 AM

^^^^ouch

ladyingray on January 24, 2013 at 9:19 AM

Erika for some reason also neglected to quote the next paragraph from the Atlantic article:

“One reason for optimism is that Internet penetration tends to grow with time and further development. According to the CNNIC report, 20 provinces saw double-digit growth in the number of Internet users in 2012, and provinces such as Ningxia, Anhui and Guizhou are among the areas with the fastest growth. “

Annual double-digit growth in internet penetration in 20 out of 22 provinces. Hmm…

Also no mention of the fact that in the last 10 years the number of internet users in China has grown from about 45 million to about 538 million, more than a 10x increase. Hmm…

And is it really surprising that there are more internet users in the more affluent parts of the country?

DarkCurrent on January 24, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Tell us about China from China Erika.

DarkCurrent on January 24, 2013 at 1:22 PM

And is it really surprising that there are more internet users in the more affluent parts of the country?

DarkCurrent on January 24, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Now to be realistic about this, I agree.
But even those of us in BFE/theSTIX have Internet access.
We all sit here in the rural country laughing our a$$es off watching PeopleatWalmart.com

Badger40 on January 24, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Now to be realistic about this, I agree.
But even those of us in BFE/theSTIX have Internet access.
We all sit here in the rural country laughing our a$$es off watching PeopleatWalmart.com

Badger40 on January 24, 2013 at 1:53 PM

The US, at present, is certainly a generally more developed country. For now.

DarkCurrent on January 24, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Declining rapidly in relative terms though

DarkCurrent on January 24, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Just you wait, DarkCurrent, just you wait. It won’t be long until there is a Chinese people of Wa-Mart. Then China will really be something special.

ladyingray on January 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Just you wait, DarkCurrent, just you wait. It won’t be long until there is a Chinese people of Wa-Mart. Then China will really be something special.

ladyingray on January 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

As Di Xin famously said at the Battle of Muye, “We’re fucked!”

DarkCurrent on January 24, 2013 at 4:14 PM