‘The Chinese Miracle(?)’ Measuring China’s development in terms of well-being between 1970 and 2010.
Berge, T.J. ten
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This research has studied to which extent the spectacular growth in GDP per capita China experienced between 1970 and 2010 – ‘the Chinese miracle’ – has been experienced in a similar fashion in well-being. On the basis of OECD standards a definition for well-being is drawn. Seven components for well-being have been identified: income and jobs, housing, health, education, political institutions, environmental quality and personal security. The indicators representing these components have been compiled into one indicator for well-being through an equal-weighting method where all components are acknowledged to contribute equally to well-being. Using this compiled indicator, this research has found a divergent development of well-being in comparison with GDP per capita’s growth path. In contrast to the dominant stance in the literature advocating that growth in GDP took root only from 1978 onwards, this research suggests that well-being already made strong improvements since 1970. Also, after improvement in a first phase between 1970 and 1986, this research finds a decline in well-being during a second phase from 1986 to 1994 which has not been experienced similarly in GDP per capita. Growing income inequality, a flattening in the decrease of infant mortality rates, worsening political institutions, deteriorating environmental quality and rising homicide rates are responsible for this decline in well-being. In a third phase (1994-2010) well-being increased in an identical pace as GDP per capita. Over all four decades, income, housing, health and education have consequently made improvements. The discrepancy in the development of well-being and GDP can partially be attributed to the fact that well-being incorporates important aspects of welfare that GDP fails to take into account.