Changing China: How Xi’s ‘common prosperity’ may impact the world

China says its policies aimed at narrowing the widening wealth gap are precisely what it needs in this moment of its economic trajectory – but critics say it comes with even greater control of how business and society will be governed.

And while this “common prosperity” drive is squarely focused on people inside the country it has the potential to have huge repercussions for the rest of the world.

One of the most visible consequences of common prosperity has been the refocusing of corporate China’s priorities to the domestic market.

Technology giant Alibaba, which in recent years has seen its global profile rise, has now committed $15.5bn (£11.4bn) to help promote common prosperity initiatives in China, and set up a dedicated task force, spearheaded by its boss Daniel Zhang.

The firm says it is a beneficiary of the country’s economic progress, and that “if society is doing well and the economy is doing well, then Alibaba will do well”.

Rival tech giant Tencent is pitching too. It has pledged $7.75bn to the cause.

China Inc. is keen to show it is playing ball with the Party’s mandate – but when the push towards more companies publicly backing Xi Jinping’s new vision first started, it did come as a “bit of a shock”, one major Chinese company told me privately.

“But then we got quite used to the idea. It’s not about robbing the rich. It’s about restructuring society, and building up the middle class. And we are a consumption business at the end of the day – so it’s good for us.”

Luxury sector may lose out

If common prosperity means an increased focus on the emerging Chinese middle class – then that could mean it is a boon for global businesses catering to these customers.

“We can see that the focus on young people getting jobs is good,” Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, told me.

“If they feel they are part of social mobility in this country, which has been eroding, then it is good for us. Because when the middle class grows, then there is more opportunity.”

It is clear that common prosperity is a major part of how the Chinese state and society will be governed under Xi Jinping.

With this comes the promise of a more equitable society – a bigger and wealthier middle class, and companies that give back rather than just take.

A sort of top down Utopian China, that the Party is hoping will prove to be a viable alternative model for the world to what the West has on offer.

But it does come with a catch: even more control and power in the hands of the Party.

China has always been a difficult environment for foreign businesses to operate in, common prosperity means that the world’s second largest economy just got even more difficult to navigate.

-BBC

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