How is China really doing?

China is one of 23 countries for which the BCI 2008 does not provide data on the direction or speed of evolution. It is also the one country that according to income poverty estimates is advancing so fast that it compensates for all the rest in world averages.

The actual trend of poverty in China is difficult to determine. We now have, as a result of a credible global survey, the income poverty figures for 2005, but all previous values are mere estimates. On top of that, in the transition to a market economy, income may grow without peoples’ life actually changing. Think of the commune system where millions of peasants were self-sufficient. They now receive a salary, but they also have to pay for the food they used to get free. The total registered income increases both with the money they receive and what they pay.

Should Social Watch attempt to provide a guess for the recent evolution of the Chinese BCI? We think not. On the one hand the reliability of our index is based on its data being verifiable against those published by trusted international sources. On the other, the index should be used to deduct a trend and not the other way around. It is easy to assume that the recent economic growth in China has been followed by a similar improvement in education and health statistics. But in an historical perspective there is also evidence for the opposite: Chinese spectacular economic growth seems to have started AFTER a basic improvement in health and education for all had been achieved. We will have to wait for reliable social statistics to be able to establish with certainty what the recent trend for China is.