Commentary: Why is China still a developing country?

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-05 14:20:43|Editor: Liangyu
Video PlayerClose

BEIJING, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Over 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has experienced an unprecedented growth, transforming from a relatively poor country to the world's second largest economy and the largest trader in goods.

But it still has a long way to go before it becomes a "developed economy."

China is a country with booming cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen. But it is also a country with many poor counties and villages.

At the historic 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said China's international status as the world's largest developing country has not changed.

A government anti-poverty campaign has lifted more than 68 million people out of poverty over the past five years alone. But as of 2017, over 30 million Chinese, the equivalent of half of France's entire population, still lived below the poverty line.

Even for those who have risen out of extreme poverty, many still struggle to meet their basic daily needs, especially rural Chinese.

China's economic growth has been unbalanced, with cities on the coast growing robustly and many other regions remaining underdeveloped.

After a visit to China's west, International Monetary Fund senior consultant Nigel Chalk pointed out in 2010 how remarkably diverse the country was. It was hard to believe China was a developing country if one had only seen Shanghai. But further inland, things looked completely different. In the country's rural areas, many people still struggled to get by.

Eight years on, despite the epic changes that have taken place in China, that observation still applies. China faces the same problems that all other developing countries do: Most Chinese spend a high portion of their incomes just on food, they have a hard time finding good quality health care and have to fight pollution, and welfare benefits are few and far between.

As Zhu Lijia, a public policy professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, put it, compared with developed economies, China still lags far behind in important sectors like public services, law enforcement and social welfare.

Assessing GDP per capita is the primary way to determine whether a country is "developed" or not. China has the second largest GDP in the world, but its 1.4 billion people have to share that wealth.

Last year, China's GDP per capita was just over 8,800 U.S. dollars, less than the world average of 10,000 dollars, and just one seventh of that of the United States.

Zhu says that a country must have a GDP per capita higher than 12,700 dollars to be considered a developed economy and higher than 40,000 dollars to be considered a highly developed nation.

China still falls well below that mark.