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?