GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
In #257 dated 20 June 2021, I said that I would address problems that China will encounter going forward. I put the problems in a positive context of considerable achievement since 1949 when New China was inaugurated – and since 1921 when the Party was formed in Shanghai.
But life is not plain sailing. Problems do arise + need to be confronted. Today I ask whether there are people in China who might get left behind. Here, I have in mind citizens who may lack skills + education and fail to access an increasingly technological society.
There are contrasts in China today. There are wealthy billionaires at one end – many with university degrees and post-graduate MBA’s – and less well-placed people with only a basic education at the other end.
Both are served by an economy that is making big strides, moving from hand to machine, from manual labour to advanced technology. China’s industry is increasingly robotic and inspired by artificial intelligence; its land increasingly mechanised with machines achieving greater output than human hands. The danger is that people get left behind; their skills are insufficient to qualify them for more technically demanding occupations.
And the problem for the government comes as these people move from the centre to the margins; from employment to unemployment; from participation and income to unemployment and a lack of funds. If this drift takes hold, these people from the hardcore of future discontent and protest. China is aware it needs prosperity to maintain stability. Society needs to advance and people need to experience the benefits of progress. If people are left behind they form the raw material for dissent and demonstration. China knows this. This is not a surprise. Development is not a linear progression but a process, which whilst always moving forward, can find people falling by the wayside and drifting to the margins.
So China is aware that it needs a plan to stop the drift, and bring those lacking training + education back into the mainstream of economic development + civic life. Easier said than done. The numbers are not small – maybe 200m – and resources of management, education and funding will be required to bring this category of citizens back into the mainstream of China going forward. But China knows there is a problem.