September 12, 2007 / 5:21 AM / 10 years ago

Chinese rail at ill-gotten gains of "immoral" rich

BEIJING, (Reuters Life!) - About 70 percent of Chinese regard the wealthy as immoral and unworthy of respect, according to a survey in the world’s biggest Communist state.

A poll of nearly 4,000 people by a Chinese Internet portal and a local newspaper found only 4 percent thought the rich were “good”, showing that a maxim widely attributed to prominent politician Deng Xiaoping “to get rich is glorious” holds little water for most respondents.

“A scarcity of positive images of rich people in society mirrors the many perceived drawbacks of the character and values of wealthy people,” the China Daily quoted the survey as saying.

“Some rich people are thought to have accumulated their wealth through illegal means, such as bribery,” it quoted Yuan Xiaoying, a post-graduate student, as saying.

“Rich people on the mainland invest too little in charity and gain too much,” according to An Xiaoze, a Beijing student.

China’s transformation from an impoverished backwater to the world’s fourth-largest economy has created a growing army of super wealthy, many of whom benefited from the freewheeling privatization of state assets in the 1980s and 1990s.

The country’s richest 500 people are worth an average $276 million and control $138 billion in assets -- up 48 percent on a year earlier, according to last October’s Hurun Report, an annual survey of China’s wealthy.

The rise of China’s rich has been magnified by stagnant rural incomes, and lead to a widening wealth gap that analysts say threatens social stability.

Rife corruption and collusion between government officials and businessmen have also fuelled popular discontent that could bring down China’s Communist Party, its leaders have warned.

The rich needed to “have a sense of social responsibility,” be more “self-disciplined” and “have a caring heart”, the paper quoted survey’s respondents as saying.

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