SHANGHAI, Oct. 4(Xinhuanet by Fang Ning, Ji Ming)-- A million dollar wedding isn't a novelty in the eastern metropolis of Shanghai nowadays, while a pot of turnip tassel was served at the lunch of a five-member rural family in Anhui Province some 400 km away.
China's wealth gap has been widening to a dangerous level, warns the Chinese Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which says in its latest report that"unless effective measures are taken, the gap may drift further to the dangerous'Red Light' level in the next five years."
On the 88-story Jinmao Tower, the crystal wall reflects the radiance of computer-controlled neon lights in a flower-decorated wedding hall. This was set in China's most modernized city of Shanghai.
Within 500 km west to the city, such luxurious life is unimaginable in Shouxian County of Anhui Province. There are families worrying what is on their table next dinner.
Li Duoyou, a resident of Qiuji village of the county, has exhausted 30 years of his life on farm work but could not bring enough food for his five-member family.
His son suffering encephalitis was tied up in bed, and the farmer parents are too hard up to spend 3 cents for a candle light at night when there is blackout in the village. They wouldn't dare to think about sky-high medical fees in big cities for treating their son.
Meanwhile, global accounting firm Ernst& Young forecasts that in ten years, China might become the world's second largest luxury commodities consumer next only to the United States.
"A healthy economy can't be fueled only by the rich, who own yachts and fancy cars," says Li Jian, an academician with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
He says that the widening wealth gap is threatening the country's stability and undermining the country's efforts for sustainable development.
The scholar points out that of the country's three economic pillars-- investment, export and consumption, the last one is the weakest point, since the disposable income of most of China's 1.3 billion people does not increase in pace with the country's remarkable growth in gross domestic product(GDP).
China has made great progress in poverty reduction. However the absolute number of poor people is still astonishing. By the end of July this year, China had 26.1 million rural population living in abject poverty, 49.77 million with low income and 22 million urban poor supported by the minimum living allowance.
The Gini coefficient, a statistical measure of inequality in which zero expresses complete equality while one expresses complete inequality, reaches 0.447 in China today, higher than the internationally accepted warning line of 0.4. Some 20 percent of China's population at the poverty end accounts for only 4.7 percent of the total income or consumption while the 20 percent at the affluence end takes up 50 percent of the total income or consumption.
"The imbalanced development between cities and the countryside is the biggest obstacle on China's road to a harmonious society," says Liu Qi, a research fellow with the Anhui Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The wealth gap goes wide along with China's market-oriented reform, but only the reform could ensure more and more people will benefit from the country's economic and social progress, experts say.
The national legislature's hearing on raising the threshold of personal income tax is seen as part of the country's effort to help low incomers against the backdrop of fast economic growth.
China's top legislature held its first-ever legislative hearing last Tuesday on lifting the cutoff point of the personal income tax from 800 yuan(98.8 US dollars) to 1,500 yuan(185 US dollars),a major potential amendment to the existing Law on Personal IncomeTax.
The expected amendment signals the country's resolution in bridging the income gap. Meanwhile, civil affairs officials say that the government has pledged to establish a welfare network to cover all urban and rural impoverished people in 90 percent of provinces and 70 percent of counties before the end of this year.
The central government's budget for the purpose will be increased to 7.46 billion yuan(921 million US dollars) this year, an increase of 3.53 billion yuan(436 million US dollars) from last year.
No doubt, Li Duoyou and his family will be among the beneficiaries. Enditem