By most measures, the income gap between urban and rural households in China is one of the largest in the world, with urban residents’ incomes more than triple those of their rural counterparts. Not surprisingly, then, improving rural incomes has become the main target of social welfare policies in China today, though it is too early to tell whether such policies will be enough to reduce the rural-urban income gap. The new social policies have also been introduced in the context of two long-term demographic trends of great significance: China’s high-speed urbanization and the rapid aging of its population. China’s […]

Earlier this month, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held one of its most important summits in years. The SCO faces the task of managing the instability engendered by the Arab Spring and the ongoing NATO military drawdown in Afghanistan. In addition, the organization has the potential to substantially shape the broader China-Russia relationship. Yet besides its traditional joint declarations and bilateral leadership meetings, the summit, which took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Sept. 13-14, was noteworthy mainly for its limited achievements. The most important participant was China’s new president, Xi Jinping, who was attending his first SCO summit. Xi reaffirmed […]

In its public rhetoric, the Chinese government has long recognized the need for reforms, but for a number of reasons it has often struggled to implement many of these changes. These include overarching ideological resistance, factional disagreements within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government, lobbying and disruption from vested interest groups, poor policy implementation and pressure from popular opinion. Beijing’s list of promised reforms is considerable. From the host of commitments agreed as part of China’s 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), to Wen Jiabao’s repeated allusions to political change, to Xi Jinping’s intimations of broad-based […]