China's Common Prosperity Program: Causes, Challenges, and Implications
Introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the beginning of 2021, “common prosperity” has become a defining theme of Chinese politics today, serving to set critical priorities for Beijing across economic, environmental, and social policy, at both the national and local levels. Focused largely on alleviating systemic inequalities, the common prosperity campaign has been described as a transformational new path for China’s development. Despite the central importance of common prosperity to the direction of Chinese policymaking, clarity on the concept remains limited outside of China. What exactly does common prosperity mean in practice, and what are the intentions and motivations of the political campaign being waged in its name? Where is the campaign headed, and will it be able to accomplish its goals? And, in particular, what will common prosperity mean for international non-profits and philanthropic organizations working in or with China on those areas central to the campaign?
China’s Common Prosperity Program: Causes, Challenges, and Implications, a new report by Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Senior Fellow Guoguang Wu, examines these questions in detail. The paper finds that common prosperity is derived from a complex number of motivations, including reducing pressing inequalities, but also key political goals of interest to the Chinese party-state. The paper also identifies and examines a number of internal contradictions and challenges facing the common prosperity campaign, such as a continuing mismatch between common prosperity’s ambitious goals and the concrete measures that have so far been planned or implemented, and analyzes what steps would be required to rectify these issues moving forward.
The report devotes special focus to common prosperity’s impact on philanthropic and non-profit work, given the concept’s overlap with key areas of development frequently prioritized by the sector. The Chinese state has expressed significant interest in encouraging and expanding philanthropic activity as part of the goals of common prosperity. Beijing therefore may increasingly welcome the international philanthropic sector’s resources and expertise to meet these challenges. However, the Chinese state has also firmly telegraphed its intention to maintain strict control over the use of funds, the non-profit sector as a whole, and the participation of foreign organizations in particular. Examining these factors in detail, and highlighting the reality of both significant opportunities for impact and growing political obstacles to normal practice, this report illustrates the mix of challenges and opportunities likely to face the global philanthropic sector’s operations in China in the years ahead.