Does Economic Growth Really Mean Economic Growth?

By Fan Zhang

In the past few years, citizens of china and governments all around the world have praised the economic growth of China. My frequent phone calls back home include conversations filled with family members gloating about the fact that cities in China look exactly like the cities they have visited here in the United States. With all this, the numbers do prove that China is growing economically at a breakneck speed. Within the past two decades, China has transformed from a closed off communist regime suppressing its citizens to becoming a center of culture and trade. On top of that, China has become a major world power currently influencing events all over the world and the United States currently owes somewhere around 1.3 trillion dollars to China. This means that each resident of the United States currently owes about 4077 dollars to China. However, on a recent trip back to China a few months ago, I discovered something sinister about this so called economic growth. I went on a trip with my family to visit the village that my parents grew up in. Upon arriving, I nonchalantly asked my parents where this village was and they pointed towards a couple mud huts and said that this was what is left of their village. With a population of several hundred, this is a common appearance outside of the major cities that China has poured their money into. These several hundred citizens of China, many of which fought during the communist revolution of the 1950’s currently live without running water, electricity or any of the basic amenities that most people would expect from a developed country. However, this I learned, was a common thing in china, Cities get all the funding while many who live far away from cities because of family traditions of lack of money to move are left out to fend for themselves with little to no government support. When my family left the village with a small gift of about twenty US dollars in Chinese Yuan, many of villagers could not thank them enough and some even said they have never seen so much money all at once.

After this experience, I have come to believe that we as a society must take economic growth with a grain of salt. Economic growth does not really mean economic growth of only a privileged few get to enjoy the benefits of the so-called growth. I urge each individual that reads this to think about the experiences of people like the ones I met while I was in China and to advocate for a fair dispersion of the fruits of economic growth. If a government spends all of its money beautifying a few cities while leaving everyone else not in a city out to rot, can we really considered that to be economic growth?


8 responses to “Does Economic Growth Really Mean Economic Growth?

  1. eckerline

    Economic growth certainly comes at a cost. We often view it as a positive, but it can definitely have negative effects and create gaps in societies and deplete tradition.


  2. ahmedalagil

    This article strikes me especially when you shared your village trip. I totally agree with your points. Actually, I had similar experience! I visited a rural village in Lebanon near my high school where people there do not even know what development is!!
    Many governments around the world only focuses on developing certain cities very well and leave the other “rural areas” and villages underdeveloped. Therefore, we really can not say that this is “economic growth”!


  3. I really learn a lot from your blog. In the past, I thought economics growth means a country or an area is developing and becoming better. However, after reading your blog, I realized that it was not true. When everyone can get the benefit from economics growth, we can truly say that it is the real economics growth. Thank you to let me realize this common problems!


  4. husseinelsadek

    I completely agree that economic growth is different from standard of living. I believe economic growth only means that the country as a whole is improving by becoming more efficient and productive. Economic growth and standard of living are not completely independent; some aspects of economic growth could lead to elevated standard of living. Too many people believe that economic growth will lead to less poverty; the world should redirect their focuses to more effective methods of eliminating poverty.


  5. georgeyoo

    I totally agree with your idea. Growth in the economy doesn’t mean just increases in numbers. I think the society, the culture, public interest, and many other things should grow together with the economic growth.


  6. barghout

    I agree that economic growth isn’t truly growth unless everyone is accounted for. Economic growth is an index that excludes other measurements such as human development, happiness, GDP Per Capita, and other important factors that should be accounted for while measuring the growth of a city. That being said, economic growth is a poor representation of individual growth and development.


  7. lilyywx

    I couldn’t agree more. Besides the speed of economic development, we should also focus on the quality of economic development. Whether China’s economic growth is sustainable is a matter of debate, but the present slow down (7.4% in 2014 and targeted 7% in 2015) is more a deliberately planned policy than not. The slowdown, no doubt influenced by world-wide economic down turn, is nonetheless a Chinese policy to allow the economy to catch a breather so to speak to ease some growth pains and to ward off side effect excesses in areas such as corruption, greenhouse gas emission, income disparity, low productivity etc. Like the author said, the economic growth in China does not really mean “economic growth”.


  8. Dear Fan,

    In this journey to China, we are given the opportunity to explore so many things. The image of vast skyscrapers and cities are examples of great growth and wealth, but there are many more images beyond that. Even if there is economic growth in any country, it does not necessarily mean that the ‘growth’ is everywhere. There is much more going on beyond the surface of the economic growth.

    ~Professor Myra Chaudhary


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