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No. 1 post in economic rankings unwelcomed by China

Posted May. 07, 2014 06:39,   


Beijing is apparently not happy with the prediction that China will emerge as No. 1 economic power in terms of purchasing power in the world this year. Xinhua Net, the online edition of state-run Xinhua News Agency, warned that “There is controversy even in academia over the method of comparing economies based on purchasing power,” adding, “If China feels overly complacent with useless fat without actual benefits, it would hardly have positive meaning to the path for reform and development.” This situation can be compared with Korea’s two years ago, when this country broadly bragged the feat of becoming the seventh nation in the world to join the "20-50 Club (20,000 U.S. dollars in per-capita national income, and a population of 50 million)."

Is it because China is humble and modest, or because the world’s most populous country does not deserve No. 1 post in economic rankings in the world? In fact, if per-capita purchasing power is used as the standard, China only ranks 99th in the world. China that is actually experienced and recognized by the Chinese people within China could be closer to the country’s reality than one that is viewed and perceived from outside the nation. At “World Values Surveys” of more than 80 countries conducted by Ronald Inglehart, professor at the University of Michigan in the U.S., China was found to be a country that does not deserve the world’s top spot in terms of practical situation just yet.

The World Values Surveys that track change of public awareness among populations of different countries started in 1980. The survey in Korea is conducted jointly by the Hwajeong Peace Foundation, a subsidiary of The Dong-A Ilbo, and the Korea Social Science Data Center. Most countries surveyed completed the survey from 2011 to 2012, and announced the results of analysis in August 2012. However, China completed the survey as recently as in January 2013, with the results released last month. As China delayed the survey process, the goal of comparing values of populations in different countries by comparing their situations at the same point in time has lost significance.

The survey results also revealed economic and political awareness of the Chinese that is lagging behind the international standard. Asked about their social class, 52.2 percent of the respondents in China labeled them as low-class. Also, 47.6 percent regarded them as middle-class, and 0.2 percent as upper class. Two years ago, Koreans who considered them "low-class" amounted to 21.0 percent. Also, 90.1 percent of the Chinese replied the government should provide assistance to the jobless, which represents another significant gap versus the situations in other countries. Furthermore, 67.5 percent of the Chinese agreed on the idea “Obeying political leaders is essential to democracy.” The global average in this regard was 47.8 percent, and the reading in Korea was 30.2 percent.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)