Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wealth in China

It is challenging to reconcile the China we see today with the China, truly a third world country, that we saw 25 years ago.

Then, getting permission to travel anywhere was always a bureaucratic nightmare, and the state controlled where people could live.

While generally, people had jobs and earned small salaries, few commodities were available for them to buy.

Now, while tight governmental control is still there to some degree, people do have freedom to travel and choose their residence and livelihood. The country has completely embraced capitalism.

Along with the amazing progress of the past 25 years, a voracious consumer society has developed. In any city of any size, shopping seems to be the major past time with every level of quality available. It tempers our view of America as the ultimate consumer society. Advertising is ubiquitous, billboards, giant LED video displays, TV, sometimes appealing to classist instincts.

Here, as at home, we wonder where all this consumption will lead. At the present time, it seems to have created a very solid middle class here in China.

Patrick shared with us last night that the recently wealthy in China are quickly developing philanthropic interests. We had heard that in the case of rebuilding Buddhist monasteries, individuals had contributed all the funds but this wider philanthropy was new to us.

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