Revolutionizing Rural China: Shareholding Reforms as a Catalyst for Economic Empowerment

Revolutionizing Rural China: Shareholding Reforms as a Catalyst for Economic Empowerment

China’s ongoing rural reforms are fostering practices akin to basic income, offering dividends to residents in the vast countryside. This development draws a parallel to the broader discussion of basic income within the context of China’s social security system and policies, such as the DiBao policy.

Since 2016, China has embarked on a reform of its rural collective property rights system. This reform, which involves a unified method of property verification by the central government, has enabled many villages across the country to establish clear ownership of assets. This foundational step has set the stage for the distribution of dividends.

The reform involves transforming collective operating assets into a shareholding cooperation system. The government mandates that villages and towns with these assets quantify them into shares for collective members, allowing for the distribution of earnings based on these shares. This approach leverages China’s collective economic base and equitably allocates previously undefined collective property to each member. Consequently, villagers now own shares and receive dividends, significantly enhancing their sense of financial gain.

However, these dividends differ from the traditional concept of basic income. They are conditional, require ownership in the collective, and do not necessarily follow a regular payment schedule. Despite these differences, the reforms have led to innovative institutional experiments across various pilot projects.

For instance, to include permanent residents and workers without shares in dividend distribution, some collectives have introduced new types of shares such as labor, land, and capital shares. This diversification enables broader participation, aligning more closely with the unconditional principle of basic income.

In terms of periodic distribution, some village groups, like Yongjiang Street in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, have moved from lump-sum to regular payments. This approach, now increasingly adopted by local cooperatives, ensures more consistent financial support for members.

The impact of these reforms is tangible. In Beijing’s Haidian district, for example, villagers like Zhong Ercui have transitioned from traditional employment to becoming shareholders and employees of village collectives, receiving substantial dividends. This shift has significantly improved the economic conditions of thousands of residents in the region.

These reforms represent a significant step in China’s rural development, blending traditional collective economic practices with modern principles of equitable asset distribution and financial empowerment for rural residents.

Written by: Martin Han
Editor: Tyler Prochazka

Chinese youth ‘optimistic’ toward basic income

Chinese youth ‘optimistic’ toward basic income

In a recent study conducted examining attitudes among Chinese youth towards basic income, notable findings emerged, highlighting both a lack of comprehensive understanding and a positive disposition towards the concept.

The study, conducted through a questionnaire by BIEN student interns in China, focused on Chinese youth’s awareness and perceptions of basic income, a topic gaining relevance amidst economic challenges in China. With the country experiencing a slowdown in its rapid economic growth, phenomena such as “inward curling” and “lying flat” have emerged, indicative of the pressures faced by young people.

Basic income, a program offering financial support without conditions, is posited as a solution to alleviate these pressures, providing individuals with the dignity of survival and the power of choice.

Key findings from the survey reveal that while Chinese youth are enthusiastic and hold a positive attitude towards basic income, their understanding is limited. Nearly half of the respondents lacked a fundamental grasp of the concept and many held misconceptions about its universal nature. A significant portion believed the amount should vary based on location or personal income, contrary to the principle of universality inherent in basic income.

Despite these gaps in understanding, the overall response from Chinese youth was optimistic, reflecting a societal inclination towards fairness and the belief in basic income as a beneficial social program.

These insights suggest a need for further education and awareness-raising efforts, perhaps spearheaded by organizations like the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), to enhance understanding and support for basic income among China’s youth. Such efforts could play a crucial role in addressing the challenges faced by this demographic and in shaping the future of social welfare programs in China.

The full details and analysis of this study can be found in the original research found here.

Written by: Shengjia Qin & Rui Liang
Edited by: Tyler Prochazka
Mentor: Tim Lu

Unified Basic Income: A Viable Solution for Israel and Palestine?

Unified Basic Income: A Viable Solution for Israel and Palestine?

While the proposition may appear daunting, the exploration of Universal Basic Income (UBI) for both Israelis and Palestinians is certainly worthwhile. Given the sustained conflicts in the region — from bombings in Gaza to raids in villages — and the current Israeli government, a unified UBI may seem implausible. 

Nevertheless, a robust discussion on the potential benefits of a shared UBI program across troubled landscapes from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River is a necessity. Despite a history of failed negotiations and a prevailing sentiment of intractability, a UBI offers a novel approach to a perennial issue.

Scholars like Diana Bashur, renowned for her research on the influence of UBI in conflict-ridden areas, argue for its potential to improve social cohesion, bolster peacekeeping initiatives, strengthen social contracts, and enhance the resilience of communities. As demonstrated in her most recent work on post-war Syria, UBI might not be a panacea, but it could be a crucial step toward a more equitable society. This innovative peace-building measure, detailed extensively in Bashur’s work, ought to be considered seriously by policymakers seeking to address one of the oldest conflicts of mankind.

Imagine the application of UBI across Palestine and Israel — in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Haifa. This shared income would not discriminate between Palestinians and Israelis but rather assert a human right to live with dignity. Such a policy could foster a sense of shared belonging and equality, thus promoting mutual respect, regardless of religious, cultural, or ethnic differences. It would necessitate a cooperative approach from both Palestinians and Israelis, forging a partnership necessary to make UBI a success.

A harmonious social connection, coupled with non-discriminatory policies, could enhance security and decrease instances of violence. Moreover, acknowledging the human rights associated with UBI could demonstrate to even the most radical factions the shared humanity of all residents. From an economic perspective, investments into UBI could foster development and societal contribution, provided these efforts are accompanied by comprehensive security measures and advancements in healthcare and education.

Contrary to critics, such a program may not be prohibitively costly. With the successful implementation of UBI and accompanying reforms, reductions in military and security spending could be realized, thus paying for itself. The benefits of UBI in terms of lives preserved and cycles of violence broken are invaluable. Providing Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza and the occupied regions, with genuine opportunities could not only disrupt the status quo but also increase their societal contributions.

The current situation in the region, marked by loss, radicalization, and animosity, is untenable. Desires for change resonate on both sides — the Israeli protests and the widespread dissatisfaction among Palestinians are testaments to this. Therefore, despite its potential complexities, the implementation of a shared UBI could be both economically and politically feasible.

While this article merely introduces the concept of a unified UBI for Israel and Palestine, the technicalities of such a policy’s execution will be elaborated in forthcoming work.

It is not asserted here that a shared UBI would be a panacea for all the region’s problems, nor that its implementation would be straightforward. The argument presented is that a unified UBI could assure the right of all residents to a life of dignity, thus breaking the cycle of violence. Once this foundation is established, politicians can convene to debate boundaries and borders in an environment free of immediate pressure.

Written by: Ahmed Elbas

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This South Korean Presidential Election is Vital

This South Korean Presidential Election is Vital

There are rare moments when a combination of threatening circumstances leads to a wonderful transformation that only a short time before would have been unimaginable. This year may be such a moment. The Republic of Korea could set an example to the world that would bring happiness to millions of Koreans, and to many more around the world.

The risks if politicians are too cautious are enormous. Before COVID-19, the global economy was already heading towards a crisis. For over three decades, more and more of the income and wealth were going to the owners of property, financial, physical, and “intellectual”. The commons, belonging to everybody, were being converted into the source of profits and rents. A new class, the precariat, was growing everywhere, suffering from multiple forms of insecurity, drifting deeper into debt. It was incredibly high debt – private, corporate, and public – that made the global economy uniquely fragile.

Meanwhile, the public across the world were realizing the threat posed by global warming and destruction of the environment. Nothing was being done. If that continues, life for our children and grandchildren will be impaired. And it is clear that mistreatment of nature has helped make this an era of pandemics. The COVID-19 outbreak is the sixth pandemic this century.

In these circumstances, policies that merely try to go back to the old normal will not work. We need a bold transformative vision, one of courage, one designed to give people basic economic and social security, one designed to make the economy work for society and every citizen, not just for the bankers and plutocracy, and one designed to revive the commons and our natural environment.

Jae-Myung Lee is campaigning for the Presidency in the March 2022 presidential election with an exciting and feasible strategy, based on a promise of a basic income for every Korean man and woman, paid equally, as a right, without conditions. It is affordable. What is important at this stage is not to set some ideal amount, but to be on the road towards living in a society in which everybody has enough on which to survive, even if they experience personal setbacks.

What makes the proposal for a basic income so profound is that Jae-Myung Lee has come from a humble background, knowing poverty and insecurity from his childhood. He understands two fundamentals. First, the income of every Korean is due to the efforts of all those Koreans who lived beforehand, and it is based on the commons, nature and resources that make up the country, which belong to all Koreans. Those who have gained from taking the commons, most of all, the land, owe it to all Koreans to share some of the gains. A modest Land Value Tax, or levy, is justifiable and fair, and should help fund the basic income.

He also understands that pollution and global warming must be combated by a carbon tax or eco-taxes. The rich cause more pollution than the poor, the poor experience the bad effects more than the rich, including bad health from exposure to poisonous air. So, the solution must include carbon taxes to discourage global warming and polluting activities. But by themselves such taxes would hit the poor harder, because the tax would amount to more of their income.

The only sensible solution is to guarantee that the revenue from eco-taxes will be recycled through a Commons Capital Fund to help pay for the basic income, as Carbon Dividends. The poor will gain, while society will be on the road to fighting global warming and ecological decay. A basic income will also encourage more care work and ecological work, rather than resource-depleting labor. It will stimulate the desirable form of economic growth.         

The second fundamental Jae-Myung Lee and his advisers have understood is that basic security is essential for rational decision-making and mental health. There cannot be individual or societal resilience against pandemics or economic crises unless there is basic security, so that people can behave rationally rather than in desperation. Experiments have shown that a basic income improves mental health and the ability to make better decisions, for oneself, one’s family, and one’s community.

In the Korean edition of my book Plunder of the Commons, I paid respect to the ancient Korean ethos of hongik ingan, which helped found Korea in 2,333 BC. It expresses a historically-grounded wisdom that Koreans should be re-teaching the world in an era of self-centered individualism and consumption-driven “success”. It conveys the sense of not just sharing in benefits of production but sharing in the preservation and reproduction of a sense of community, our sense of participation and our relationships in and with nature. A basic income would pay respect to that ethos. Jae-Myung Lee should be commended for having pioneered it in Gyeonggi Province, and would set the country on a new progressive road if elected President on March 9.


A Korean translation of this article was published by Pressian – a political news website headquartered in Seoul, South Korea.