(noun): political agenda designed to reduce inequality through wealth redistribution and improved welfare policies
One of the trials of China-watching is trying to select the slogans that will stick. A jumble of outworn political mantras clogs up the annals of Chinese communist history. How many of us, for instance, recall what was meant by the “Three Represents”, the “Two Whatevers” or the “Scientific Outlook on Development”.
But “common prosperity” commands unambiguous respect. First mentioned by Xi Jinping, China’s leader, in late 2020, it has really come into its own this year.
“Common prosperity”, according to Xi, will be one of China’s most important objectives over the next 15 years. It signals an intention to reduce economic inequality by narrowing the country’s stubbornly large gap between rich and poor.
The president made clear one reason for the slogan’s prominence: he does not want China to suffer the same fate as the US. “The rich and the poor in some countries are polarised with the collapse of the middle class. This has led to social disintegration, political polarisation and rampant populism,” he said in August.
Already, several policy initiatives have been launched under the “common prosperity” banner. Xi has called for the introduction of a property tax, with the aim of making the wealthy pay more for holding valuable property assets.
Similarly, he says, wealthy people should “give back more to society”. Old-age pensions and welfare benefits for the poor should be raised. But — in another clear warning against following the west — Xi warned against falling into “the welfarist trap of encouraging the lazy”.
In a nutshell, “common prosperity” tacitly recognises that while China has officially been building “socialism” over the past four decades, it has created one of the most unequal societies on earth. The time has come, Beijing says, to fix that.