WUKONG Disparities in
data By Wu Zhong, China Editor
HONG KONG - Two sets of statistical
figures recently released in China have drawn wide
public attention, arousing much controversy.
The first claims that more than 70% of
Chinese people now feel satisfied with the
effectiveness of Beijing's crackdown on corruption
and over 80% agree that official corruption has
been effectively checked.
don't tally however with the generally perceived
reality that the majority of Chinese people are
still outraged with official corruption run amok.
Therefore they are under intense scrutiny.
The second set of figures show that
private ownership of housing
in China has reached
nearly 90%, far above the world average of 60%.
And on average, every urban family now own
1.22 flats. Needless to say, this has caused an
uproar, especially among homeless city dwellers.
Even property developers are not happy with such
numbers as they suggest a saturated housing
market. Nevertheless, the data deserve further
Anti-graft statistics were
released by Cui Hairong, deputy director of the
National Bureau of Corruption Prevention, in Hong
Kong on May 11 at an international conference
hosted by Hong Kong's Independent Commission
Cui said China had
received praise at home and abroad for its
stepped-up efforts to crack down on corruption in
recent years. From 1982 to 2011, he said, more
than 4.2 million Communist Party and government
officials - of whom 465 were senior officials at
minister-level or higher - were punished for
violating party discipline or state laws.
More than 90 high-ranking officials had
been convicted of corruption and dealt with by the
law. Most notable were the executions. Cheng
Kejie, the former vice chairman of the National
People's Congress, former vice governor of Jiangxi
province Hu Changqing, former vice governor of
Anhui province Wang Huizhong, and former director
of State Drug Administration Zheng Xiaoyu were put
to death between 2000 and 2007 for taking huge
bribes. Over 42,000 officials were prosecuted for
corruption from 2003 to 2011.
figures could be interpreted in a number of
different ways. From the pessimistic perspective,
one may say they show official corruption runs
increasingly rampant as the number of officials
convicted of corruption tends to grow and the evil
trend spreads higher up the ranks.
politburo members, former Beijing and Shanghai
party secretaries Chen Xitong and Chen Liangyu,
have been jailed for corruption. Former Chongqing
party secretary Bo Xilai may soon become the
third. Optimists might say all this is evidence of
Beijing's efforts in crackdown of corruption.
Taking the optimistic line, Cui cited
statistics to conclude that Chinese people have
become increasingly happy with Beijing's campaign
against corruption. According to him, by the end
of 2011, 72.7% of Chinese people felt satisfied
with the effectiveness of the anti-graft drive, up
from 51.9% in 2003, and 83.8% of people agreed
that official corruption had been curbed to some
extent, up from 68.1% in 2003.
however, caused a public uproar after being widely
reported in the state-run media. Comments in the
media and websites questioned whether and how such
figures could be fabricated.
arose since the numbers failed to tally with the
generally perceived reality. Official corruption
has remained one of the top concerns in opinion
polls over recent years.
In China, nine
out of 10 people, including officials, would shake
their heads if asked about whether corruption has
been effectively checked. In speeches over the
past couple of years, President Hu Jintao and
Premier Wen Jiabao have repeatedly highlighted
corruption as a problem concerning the "life or
death" of the Communist Party and the legitimacy
of its rule.
Compiling the corruption
statistics is a tricky business. Cui failed to
reveal how the figures were derived. Given the
answers, would not be strange if most of the
respondents in his statistical study turned out to
have been anti-corruption officials. They have to
show that they are getting their job done.
Likewise, in recent years, regional officials have
been found guilty of inflating local gross
domestic product figures to enhance their
prospects of promotion.
ownership figures, by comparison, come from
independent research on the financial
circumstances of Chinese families, released last
The research was conducted by the
Chengdu-based Southwestern University of Finance
and Economics and the People's Bank of China or
central bank. The joint research team spent three
years gathering data from 8,438 families from
various areas in 25 provinces. They were asked
about their assets, liabilities, incomes,
spending, investment, insurance, etc. As such, the
survey gives comprehensive figures showing how an
average Chinese family handles its finance. 
Housing ownership figures, especially
those showing that an average urban family owns
1.22 flats, are the most controversial ones from
this research report. Many people, including some
well-known economists and big property developers,
immediately questioned its accuracy.
controversy is caused probably because the
research team failed to give a clear-cut
definition of a "Chinese family". In sociology, a
"family" normally refers to a "core family"
consisting of a married couple with their children
(if any) under the grown-up age. But in China,
many adult children or even married young couples
still live with their parents under the same roof
to form a "big family". Even today, it is not rare
to see three generations living under the same
If the concept of a "Chinese family"
in the research includes such a "big family", then
the housing ownership figures are not astonishing.
Before China launched reform measures to privatize
housing in the mid-1990s, the government was
obliged to provide housing for all urban
residents. Housing reforms allowed residents to
buy the places they lived in or even bigger flats
(depending on their official ranks, work
experiences, etc) at very low,
all urban residents in their late 40s or older now
are homeowners. Some couple may even own more than
one flat since before marriage, both partners
might have each owned a flat. It is their grown-up
children who now are unable to buy their own
As a result, many of such adult
children, even after getting married and having
children of their own, still live with their
parents. If such a "big family" is taken as one
into the statistics, the percentage of housing
ownership remains high.
Moreover, in major
cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou,
many newly build flats have been bought as
investments by rich people from outside. A rich
guy may have bought several flats in a city. It is
not surprising therefore that the statistics show
one family owning more than one flat.
a more precise definition of "family", the newly
released housing ownership figures may reveal a
phenomenon that is a stark indicator of the
widening wealth gap in Chinese cities today: while
there are people who cannot afford to own their
property, some own more homes than they need.
Note 1. Click here
for full text of the research report (in Chinese).
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