Social issues in China

Social issues in China are varied and wide-ranging, and are a combined result of the Chinese economic reforms set in place in the late 1970s, China's political and cultural history, and an immense population. Because of the vast number of social problems that exist in China today (not at all exclusive to the following list), China's government has faced considerable difficulty in trying to remedy the issues. Many of these issues are exposed by the Chinese media, while subjects that may contain politically sensitive issues may be censored. Some academics hold that China's fragile social balance, combined with a bubble economy makes China an extremely unstable country, while others argue China's societal trends have created a balance to sustain itself.


According to Professor Jianrong, official statistics show the number of recorded incidents of mass unrest are "boiling ... to the point of explosion". They have risen from 8,709 in 1993 to more than 90,000 in each of 2007 through 2009. Reasons cited include an aggrieved class of dispossessed migrants and unemployed workers, a deep loss of faith in the system among many Chinese and a weakening in the traditional means of state control.[1]

Professor Hu Xingdou of the Beijing University of Technology said corruption, state monopolies, the yawning wealth gap and the rising cost of housing, education and medical care all contribute significantly to unrest. He said land seizures and the widening wealth gap were the two top factors: Since the beginning of Deng Xiaoping's reforms in 1979, the disparity between the urban and rural populations has risen from 2.56:1 in 1978 to 3.33:1 in 2009. Urban income in 1978 was 343 yuan whilst rural income stood at 134 yuan; in 2009, the corresponding figures were 17,175 yuan and 5,153 yuan respectively. Despite the overall increase in urban income, unemployment, unpaid wages and police misconduct are sources of grievances.[1]

Regional imbalances

Since the economic reforms in China began, income inequality has increased significantly. The Gini Coefficient, an income distribution gauge, has worsened from 0.3 back in 1986 to 0.42 in 2011,.[2] Poverty researchers recognize anything above 0.4 as potentially socially destabilizing.

The growing wealth gap can be seen as a byproduct of China’s economic and social development policies. The adverse effects of having a widening inequity between the rich and the poor include social and political instability, discrimination in access to areas such as public health, education, pensions and unequal opportunities for the Chinese people. It is important to note that the inequality in income in China can also be seen as a rural-urban income gap especially with the widely criticized social development policy, the Hukou (household registration) System in place. Market income – mainly wages – has been the driving factor in shaping urban income inequality since the economic reforms in China while the widening rural-urban income gap is due to low salaries for employees and migrants in many companies coupled with rapidly growing profits for the management of State-owned enterprises, real estate developers and some private companies. The urban per capita net income stood at 17,175 yuan ($2,525) in 2009, in contrast to 5,153 yuan in the countryside, with the urban-to-rural income ratio being 3.33:1, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics.[3]

The Hukou System has been long seen as an institutionalized source of inequality and disparity among the population and source of population control[4] seen a deterrence factor for rural citizens to seek a higher standard of living in the cities as rural citizens will be denied access to urban housing and education for their children. It is also seen as a legacy of the dualistic economy, serving as a highly effective measure of limiting urban migration.[5]

Population density of China by first-level administrative regionsEnglish
China's wealth and population is concentrated in the Eastern coastal provinces


  • Steady increase in cases of AIDS.


Employment distribution has been an important issue for the Chinese Government ever since it began initiating reforms.[6] The previous state-led system of employment has been restructured to accommodate the market economy. Its negative effects include the massive layoffs and the cracks to the household registration system, which sent many rural Chinese to seek employment in the cities.[7] These factors gave rise to the competitive labor force and unemployment. Employment levels differ from region to region, with stronger concentrations of unemployment in the interior.

The unemployment trend is attributed in part to the efforts of the Chinese Government to make its SOEs (State Owned Enterprises), which had a redundancy rate at an estimated 25-30% in 1999,[6] more efficient.[8] On the other hand, as of late 2011, the heavily industrialized coastal areas and cities are in fact experiencing an employment shortage due to the runaway growth of the economy.[9] Guangdong province alone needs at least 1 million workers to cover the shortage.[10] It is important to note, however, that unemployment elsewhere causes millions to leave home in the rural areas. By the end of 2009, for instance, 120 million workers, who lost their jobs due to the global economic crisis that affected China's manufacturing industry, trooped to areas such as Guangdong to find better opportunities.[11] The government's recent response to the unemployment problem has been viewed favorably because of a shift in perspective. Today, the state approaches the issue, not as a political problem but a socio-economic problem that require socio-economic solutions.[12]

There are also related social problems to unemployment. These include the fact that the country's social insurance system is considered within the primitive stage of development, exposing employees to further problems in cases when the government allows the companies they work for to be liquidated.[11]

Government and law

  • Bloated staffing in civil service and redundant government agencies
  • Corruption (nepotism and cronyism (favorism over meritocracy), wasting public funds, bribery, legal system corruption (司法制度腐败),Corporate scandals etc.)
  • Face projects (面子工程), including building useless roads, buildings, and huge government squares
  • Tofu-dreg projects (豆腐渣工程), meaning poorly built infrastructure
  • government-commerce relationships (官商勾结)
  • Lack of the rule of law
  • Fusion and unclear definition on the powers of the government and judiciary


  • Increase in corporate irregularity a.k.a. white-collar crime.
  • Close tie between organized crime and corruption.[13]
  • Extensive allegations of counterfeiting.
  • Increased instances of alleged fraud and scams (including people claiming supernatural powers, quack medicines, etc.)
  • The resurgence of Chinese organized crime.[14]

Social unrest

  • Media censorship
  • Dissatisfaction with corrupt government officials.
  • Large protests against local government/businesses due to unfair treatment (usually land and expropriation related issues) and ensuing persecution.

Elitism and discrimination


  • Common with other East Asian countries is the extreme pressure from friends, family, and society to perform well in extremely competitive schools, (especially in Gaokao, the university entrance exams) this can result in unethical behaviour performed by parents and/or students (bribery, cheating, etc. to get into best schools)[15]
  • Rural-urban inequality
  • Lack of strong relationship between state-funded research and the private sector, e.g. poor commercialization and technology transfer of university research
  • Lack of critical scholarship and monitoring of research quality
  • Higher Education System is challenged by the transition of economy system in China(from controlled economy to market economy), the methods of production ( from diversified to intensive), the conflicts between ancient Chinese cultures, modern Chinese cultures and western cultures. Students are often barred from higher education because the right of admission of a large number of universities is held by most educational administrative departments and local authorities. In addition, Students and Faculties in Higher Education disregard academic duty while demanding for more academic freedom due to the lack of effective regulations.[16]


  • Norm that social competitiveness should be considered above all else
  • Loss of traditional Confucian morals and beliefs
  • Inflexible ideologies taught in public
  • Excessive materialism
  • Money worship
  • Discrepancy between the free market and the lack of liberal individualism grounded in law[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b Huang, Cary (19 October 2010). "Leaders lost for words to describe and address cause of social strife South China Morning Post
  2. ^ Need to Narrow Income Gap. China Daily. 16 Sept 2011. Last Accessed: 22 Sept 2011
  3. ^ Rural-Urban Gap Widest Since Reforms China Daily. 2 March 2011. Last Accessed: 10 Sept 2011
  4. ^ "No Change In Beijing's Hukou System". China Digital Times. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  5. ^ Tao Kong, Sherry. "China's migrant problem: the need for hukou reform". East Asia Forum. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  6. ^ a b Lee, Ching Kwan (December 2000). The Revenge of History: Collective Memories, Unemployment and Labor Protests in Northeastern China (Vol. 1 No. 2 217-237 ed.). Ethnography. p. 3.
  7. ^ Sato, Hiroshi (2006). Unemployment, Inequality and Poverty in Urban China. Oxon: Routledge. pp. xiii. ISBN 0415338727.
  8. ^ Won, Jaeyoun. "The Making of the Post-Proletariat in China" - Development and Society, Dec 2005, Vol. 23 No. 2. P. 191-192.
  9. ^ Rapoza, Kenneth. "In Coastal China, A Labor Shortage".
  10. ^ "Labor shortage hits China".
  11. ^ a b Garrick, John (2012). Law and Policy for China's Market Socialism. London: Routledge. p. 62. ISBN 9780415692854.
  12. ^ Xu, Feng (2012). Looking for Work in Post-Socialist China: Governance, Active Job Seekers and the New Chinese Labour Market. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415559683.
  13. ^ Wang, Peng (2013). "The rise of the Red Mafia in China: a case study of organised crime and corruption in Chongqing". Trends in Organized Crime. 16 (1): 49–73. doi:10.1007/s12117-012-9179-8.
  14. ^ Wang, Peng (2013). "The increasing threat of Chinese organised crime: national, regional and international perspectives". The RUSI Journal. 158 (4): 6–18. doi:10.1080/03071847.2013.826492.
  15. ^ "Elite Asian students cheat like mad on US college applications".
  16. ^ OECD (2001), Current Issues in Chinese Higher Education, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:
  17. ^ Wang, Xiaoying (2002). "The Post-Communist Personality: The Spectre of China's Capitalist Market Reforms". The China Journal. 47: 1-17
1040 Sunshine Project

1040 Sunshine Project (Chinese: 1040陽光工程) is an illegal pyramid schemes or Multi-level marketing in China. It is a variation of Ponzi scheme.

It originated in Beihai City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region since 1998.


Anti-environmentalism is a political movement that opposes action towards maintaining nature and the environment, such as reducing climate change. This view is often shared by the politically conservative or business groups. Anti-environmentalists seek to persuade the public that environmental policy impacts them negatively through public debate. Various groups in society have sought to counter the effects of environmental ideology and movements, to redirect and diminish public concern about the environment, to attack left-leaning environmentalists, and to persuade politicians against increased environmental regulation. Some anti-environmentalists may argue environmentalism is radical and "anti-human" due to environmentalist's concern for climate change and their belief that humans need to interfere with the Earth less, or stop all together.Some anti-environmentalists argue that the Earth is not as fragile as some environmentalists maintain, as Earth maintained itself long before humans arrived, and it will continue to maintain itself long after humans are gone. Another argument made by anti-environmentalists is that it is in the interest of the economy, and more specifically job creation, to be anti-environment. Groups which are anti-environment include oil producers and mining companies.As the nature of anti-environmentalism is a polarizing subject, it has resulted in a variety of conflicts throughout North America, including the Dakota Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota and the Alberta Oil Sands. The Dakota Pipeline, a four-state crude oil pipeline which would transport 470,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois, evoked backlash from environmentalists, as well as the Indigenous communities residing in South Dakota, primarily the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. These groups had concerns about the ethicality of the pipeline as well as the pollutants the pipeline would release into the water supply of South Dakota inhabitants. Environmentalists had similar complaints regarding the Alberta Oil Sands. Anti-environmentalists argued that the economic benefits that would result from both projects outweigh the negative effects on the environment and these people living in these areas.Anti-Science movements are criticized by Anne and Paul Ehrlich, in their book “Betrayal of Science and Reason,” as being anti-Environmental. Environmental politics are often perceived as a reason for increased taxes. Anti-Environmental groups often believe Environmentalists are ignoring the "good" environmental findings and have other beliefs such as population growth and species extinction are not real issues, natural resources as plentiful, global warming as not a threat, and environmental regulation inhibits the economy. The wise-use movement is also criticized as Anti-Environmental as it also believes environmental protection interferes with economic growth and government effort towards environmental regulation is unnecessary.

Dorothy Riddle

Dorothy Riddle (born January 12, 1944) is an American-Canadian psychologist, feminist and economic development specialist. She is known as the author of the Riddle homophobia scale and published work on women's studies, homophobia, services and metaphysics.

Duan Yihe

Duan Yihe (Chinese: 段义和; pinyin: Duàn Yìhé; January 17, 1946 – September 5, 2007) was a Chinese politician and a senior lawmaker in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province. He was a member of the 10th National People's Congress and served as Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Jinan Municipal People's Congress from 2001 to 2007. Duan, together with his nephew-in-law, was executed in September 2007 for murdering his mistress, who was killed by a car bomb. It is considered one of the most shocking crimes involving a Chinese official. Duan was the sixth provincial-ministerial level official to be executed in China since 1978.

Hong Kong Kids phenomenon

"Hong Kong Kids" or "Kong Kids" (Kong Hai; Chinese: 港孩) is an expression, often derogatory, that refers to children or teenagers in Hong Kong who, among other undesirable traits, are overly dependent, have low emotional intelligence and have weak self-management skills.

The term "Kong Kids" was coined in 2009 in a book titled Kong Kids: The Nightmares for Parents and Teachers published by MingPao (a local Chinese newspaper publisher). The book summarizes five negative characteristics common in children born in Hong Kong after the 1990s. The book cited parents who spoil their children from an early age as the party responsible for the upbringing of "Kong Kids". Treating their children like "princes and princesses", parents tend to spoil their children with material gifts and money (not dissimilar to the "Little emperor syndrome" prevalent in neighbouring China). In addition, parents often have a hand in tackling everyday, trivial problems that their children might face, limiting opportunities for the children to problem solve on their own. Growing up under a spotlight, children often develop a self-centred personality, believing that the Earth revolves around them. It's also likely for Kong Kids to have a short temper when faced with problems, since they are not used to solving problems on their own. These harmful habits and characters may influence future generations, forming a vicious cycle.

Income inequality in China

China’s current mainly market economy features a high degree of income inequality. According to the Asian Development Bank Institute, “before China implemented reform and open-door policies in 1978, its income distribution pattern was characterized as egalitarianism in all aspects.” At this time, the Gini coefficient for rural – urban inequality was only 0.16. As of 2012, the official Gini coefficient in China was 0.474, although that number has been disputed by scholars who “suggest China’s inequality is actually far greater.” A study published in the PNAS estimated that China’s Gini coefficient increased from 0.30 to 0.55 between 1980 and 2002.

Market research and opinion polling in China

Market research and opinion polling in China has been conducted by several Chinese and Joint-Venture companies since Chinese economic reforms and market opening of the 1980s.

Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location

Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (Chinese: 指定居所监视居住) is a form of detention regularly used by authorities in the People's Republic of China against individuals accused of endangering state security. The detention occurs at a location that is typically not disclosed to the family, and can include guesthouses, hotels or disused official buildings.

The measure has been used heavily since 2015 against human rights lawyers, Falun Gong practitioners and dozens of others accused of political offences, including foreigners. Well known victims have included artist Ai Weiwei, Nobel Peace Prize-winning poet Liu Xiaobo and Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai.Those under residential surveillance may be held for up to six months and may only speak with other parties with permission of the police; in effect this means that they may be denied legal counsel and visitation.Residential surveillance at a designated location became available to police in 2012 when Article 73 of China's Criminal Procedure Law was amended to allow it. Articles 72 to 77 of the Criminal Procedure Law describe residential surveillance being for investigation of crimes relating to “endangering state security,” “terrorism” or “serious crimes of bribery." This form of residential surveillance does not occur at the home of the suspect, but at a place designated by the police.

Tiger parenting

Tiger parenting is strict or demanding parenting. Tiger parents push and pressure their children to attaining high levels of academic achievement or success in high-status extracurricular activities such as music, using authoritarian parenting methods. The term "tiger mother" (虎妈 or "tiger mom") was coined by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua in her 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. A largely Chinese-American concept, the term draws parallels to strict parenting styles typically enforced throughout households in East Asia. Since the rise of Amy Chua's memoir and the tiger mom phenomenon into the American mainstream during the early 2010s, the tiger mom has been a caricatured figure in modern Chinese society as well as in Overseas Chinese communities around the world. Chua's rise to fame quickly popularized the concept and term "tiger mother" spawning numerous caricatures while also becoming the inspiration for the 2014-2015 Singaporean TV show Tiger Mum, the 2015 mainland Chinese drama Tiger Mom, and the 2017 Hong Kong series Tiger Mom Blues. The stereotyped figure often portrays a Chinese mother who relentlessly drives her child to study hard, to the detriment of the child's social and physical development, and emotional well-being.

The tiger mom is analogous to other parenting stereotypes such as the American stage mother who forces her child to achieve career success in Hollywood, the stereotypical Japanese kyōiku mama who takes an enormous amount of effort in directing much of her maternal influence towards development of their children's educational and intellectual achievement, or the Jewish mother's drive for her children to succeed academically and professionally, resulting in a push for perfection and a continual dissatisfaction with anything less or the critical, self-sacrificing mother who coerces her child into medical school or law school.

Xuzhou No.32 Middle School homicide

Xuzhou No.32 Middle School Homicide (徐州第三十二中学杀人事件), also known as Xuzhou No.32 Middle School Stabbing, was a homicide that took place inside the No.32 Middle School (formerly known as No.2 Railway Middle School) in Xuzhou on February 13, 2012. One student was killed in this incident, and the school was accused of failing to save the victim.

Yang Zili

Yang Zili (Chinese: 杨子立; pinyin: Yáng Zǐlì) (born 1971), also known as Yang Zi (Chinese: 羊子), is a Chinese freelance journalist and webmaster, released in March, 2009 after having been imprisoned for eight years in the People's Republic of China for “subverting state authority.”



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