While official figures are hard to come by, “the people realise the situation is very bad”, says Wang Jianmao, a professor of economics at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. Prof Wang partly blames China’s model of development for the extent of inequality.
“The emphasis so much is, for example, on manufacturing and investment [but] services are underdeveloped,” he says. “We ensure that capital can always get very high returns. We fail to generate enough jobs. That has suppressed the labour income.”
While in the cities there is an income gap between many of China’s 230 million migrant workers and the better-off locally registered residents, a key factor in inequality is the urban-rural divide.