By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.
We’ve been talking about accelerating inflation for some time, and it has resulted in another tough issue for the government to address — with much care — the growing income gap between rich and poor.
Income disparities in some affluent cities such as Hong Kong have apparently reached a critical point, with frequent protests in the former British colony. Last weekend, a group of the so-called post-1980 generation of young people went to Central to protest the wealth imbalance. They even attempted to break into Cheung Kong Centre before the police arrived and stopped them.
They viewed Cheung Kong Centre, home to many large banks like Barclays Plc and BNP Paribas, as well as the offices of Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest and also the city’s most powerful man, as a symbol of the imbalance. I was told by friends in mainland China that a similar anti-rich atmosphere is also brewing fast in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where relatively poorer people are complaining about inflation, especially rising property prices and rents.
When investors feel more confident about returning to the Shanghai and Hong Kong markets as the economic impact of the Japan earthquake and nuclear crisis eases, some people predict the income gap issue may change the whole game if the central and local governments fail to address the increasing social unrest.
Does this make sense? Income gap is considered by some political scientists as one of the key causes to the recent popular revolt in the Middle East, the “Jasmine Revolution”, which already made Egypt a difference.