Michael Justin Lee

Very few concrete steps have emerged from the Barack Obama-Xi Jinping meeting in California, but the economy was very absent from their empty agenda, notes finance lecturer Michael Justin Lee in the ChinaUSFocus. He hoped Xi would have used the opportunity to discuss his “Chinese dream”, and pleads for more income disparity.

Michael Justin Lee:

I, for one, would have been very interested to know how President Xi intends to pursue his vision. After all, as they say, God or the Devil (I’ve heard it both ways) is in the details. I obviously don’t know how President Obama might have addressed the subject but if President Xi were to ask me, and I’d be quite happy to take his call if he did, I would advise him to tread quite gingerly.

Much was made about the release of China’s latest Gini coefficient earlier this year. The Gini coefficient, named after Italian mathematician Corrado Gini, measures the dispersion of a mass of income data from absolute sameness. Therefore, the higher the Gini, the greater that a country’s income varies from absolute equality. The Gini coefficient is not among the better known economic statistics, and its value for China had not been calculated for several years. And when a Gini statistic is ever released, it is inevitably accompanied by some requisite puns about a Gini out of the bottle or some other such thigh-slapper. (Google it up.)

Anyway, the number released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics was not terribly different from the one most recently calculated for the United States. However, a mass of comments followed about how troubling this is. And from the perspective of the Communist ideal, I suppose it would be troubling. But China has been easing down the yellow brick capitalist road for a good few decades now. Let’s not kid ourselves about Communism. It’s not coming back in any functional form. Therefore, we must actually consider that Gini number from a more realistic perspective, the capitalist one, including the American example.

Again, if President Xi were to ask me, I would ask him in return why he feels the Chinese and American levels of income inequality are necessarily bad? I emphasize “necessarily.” Although capitalism does not endorse income inequality per se, it is the sine qua non of capitalism that some people, by choice, luck or talent, will legally obtain more. Doesn’t capitalism permit and even promote the taking of entrepreneurial risks? Don’t some people have more appetite for risk taking than others? And doesn’t risk generally correlate with expected return? (Yes, yes and yes, if you’re having trouble.)

More in ChinaUsFocus.

Michael Justin Lee is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.


China Weekly Hangout

A discussion on the way the EU and the US are dealing (of fail to deal) with China, in the China Weekly Hangout on June 6, with negotiation expert Andrew Hupert from New York, Swiss lawyer Nathan Kaiser from Taipei and political analyst Steve Barru from Denver, Colorado. Moderated by Fons Tuinstra of the China Speakers Bureau.

The upcoming cyber war is the subject of the +China Weekly Hangout on Thursday 27 June. The revelations by Edward Snowden showed that the US is preparing a military shake-out, as both China, Russia and other countries are building up their cyber war capacities too. Joining us are former security consultant +Mathew Hoover and media en communication lecturer +Paul Fox of the Hong Kong University. Moderation by +Fons Tuinstra, president of the China Speakers Bureau.

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