The top leader of China’s communist regime, Xi Jinping, announced this week a toughening of measures against the country’s richest sectors in an attempt to promote “common prosperity and social justice,” following a sharp escalation in inequality rates in the world’s largest socialist country. 

At an economic planning meeting on August 17 with top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping ordered the implementation of measures to counter “excessively high incomes,” eliminate illicit profits and increase the earnings of the low-income class. As reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Xi’s speech was very forceful and did not go unnoticed, although the plan remains unclear about how it will be carried out. Xi highlighted, among other issues, problems with unequal basic public services, medical care, social welfare, and housing assistance. Proposed actions include tax collection and higher insurance for the wealthy.

Achieving “common prosperity” is a “basic requirement of socialism” and is necessary to promote “social equity and justice,” says the Xinhua article, which set the fulfillment of the main goals for the year 2049, when the centennial of the People’s Republic of China will be celebrated.

The CCP will transform the country into a “fully developed, rich and powerful” nation by 2049, reads the summary of the speech published by Xinhua.

Xi’s speech inevitably brought back memories of the CCP’s top dictator, Mao Zedong, when in the middle of the last century, he devised a plan of extreme economic reforms seeking to take away all political, social, and economic power from China’s businessmen, landlords and farmers. 

Mao ruled the country through a great economic and social transformation and upheaval. His death in 1976 marked the end of the Cultural Revolution. During his rule, the money and property of the richest sectors of traditional Chinese society were indeed redistributed. Still, this immense capital did not actually go to the poorest as promised, but to the unbridled growth of the Party and the state, while tens of millions of people starved to death.

After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping took over the leadership and implemented economic liberalization policies and opening towards the West during the following decade while keeping the population under maximum poverty and strict control and repression against the slightest intention of rebellion. 

In the 1980s, Xiaoping deepened his economic reform policies and encouraged “some of the people to get rich first.” From that moment on, a new caste of Chinese emerged, generally associated with the CCP’s top leadership, who achieved exponential personal enrichment and the development of large enterprises at the expense of exploiting their workers. 

This gap continued to widen, demonstrating a profound failure of socialist measures that promised a better future for all Chinese people. 

While Xi in February boasted of a “miracle” in lifting nearly 100 million rural residents out of extreme poverty, the claim has provoked skepticism from many experts and the international community at large, mainly because the Chinese regime has never regularly reported credible and easily verified statistical data.

The truth is that while China’s leaders continue to espouse social justice and wealth redistribution, as they have since the early days of the CCP, the gaps between the wealthy few and the vast majority of the poor continue to widen. 

As China becomes richer, its gaps between rich and poor, urban and rural, are also increasing. Last May, Premier Li Keqiang revealed that 600 million citizens only earn around 1,000 yuan (US$153) a month, highlighting the magnitude of the problem.