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China’s Richest 1 Percent Hold 70 Percent Of Their Nation’s Private Wealth

Occupy Wall Street protests last year drew significant attention to America’s income inequality, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. But the U.S. is hardly the only nation grappling with extreme inequality. As the Wall Street Journal noted today, China’s richest 1 percent hold 70 percent of their nation’s private wealth:

Just under 1% of households globally control nearly 40% of the world’s private financial wealth, according to the Boston Consulting Group. In China, where nearly half the population is still rural, just under 1% of households control more than 70% of the nation’s private financial wealth, BCG estimated in 2008. Surveys of public opinion regularly place corruption and income inequality at the top of Chinese concerns.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, China is the 27th most unequal country. The U.S. ranks 42nd. And the problem may be even worse in China than official statistics show, as Businessweek reported:

The incomes of better-off families are understated, says Wang Xiaolu, an economist at the independent National Economic Research Institute in Beijing.

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Undisclosed income, which Wang says could add up to $1.4 trillion annually, ranges from kickbacks to businesses or government to perks such as subsidized housing offered by state-run companies. If so, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population earned 65 times that of poorest 10 percent — not the 23 times shown by government data.

In the U.S., the richest 1 percent hold 34.5 percent of total wealth, while the bottom half of Americans hold just 1.1 percent.