China’s citizens do not report as much as $2.34 trillion of what they make every year, hiding “gray income” that would represent nearly 20 percent of the country’s GDP, Chinese economics scholar Wang Xiaolu says, in a report from the news site Global Voices.
Wang, of Beijing’s National Economic Research Institute, told an audience last week (page is in Chinese) that the figure — representing nearly 20 percent of China’s GDP — means the gap between rich and poor Chinese is wider than is commonly believed.
Speaking at the Chinese Museum of Finance, Wang renewed an argument he made in an attention-grabbing study of China’s income gap in 2010. That work, which relied partly on informal surveying of Chinese wage-earners, drew criticism from the official National Bureau of Statistics. It also sparked a government push to bring “gray income” into the daylight — an effort that met with little success.
China’s non-reported income is believed to have many origins, from bribes for corrupt officials and under-the-table deals between merchants to monetary gifts bestowed upon doctors and nurses.
As we recently reported, the pervasive covering-up of revenue made efforts to list China’s richest citizens difficult, with the magazine Hurun Report concluding that “valuing the wealth of China’s richest is as much an art as it is a science.”